Fatigue in the rail industry
The British Office of Rail and Road is sending the message that fatigue must be taken seriously as a safety concern after its first prosecution of a fatigue safety incident where two men tragically died after a railway contractor let them work 25 hours.
Office of Rail and Road chief inspector Ian Prosser, in an interview with Construction News, says the railway industry – where lengthy shifts, long journeys and working at night are commonplace – should examine its working practices.
“I think we will start to challenge [the industry] and think about some of the shift patterns that are liked in the industry in terms of 12-hour shifts. Are they really the right thing to do? Are we getting good efficiency out of that and good productivity?
“We’ll be laying some more challenges down for the industry to improve because I think in improving fatigue management and shift patterns […] planning will actually lead, not just to a safer railway for both the employees and the passengers, but also a more efficient one. Because some of the things that you see going on as part of this tragic incident were not very good from a planning and an efficiency point of view.”
A railway contractor who let a welder work for 25 hours before he fell asleep at the wheel and crashed, killing him and his colleague, has been fined £450,000. Renown Consultants will also pay £300,000 in costs after it was found to have failed to take the risks of fatigue and long-distance travel seriously.
One of the main reasons rail workers are increasingly susceptible to be in the midst of a rail accident are zero-hour contracts.
Rail companies must implement better working hours for employees as fatigue linked to poorly planned shift work patterns or long working hours can lead to human error, ill health, injury and reduced productivity.