Safe system of work: Rail infrastructure

Control Measure Knowledge

Complex infrastructure

Pre-planning and testing of communication arrangements should assist with attending incidents within the environment of a complex infrastructure. Awareness of the environment will assist personnel to effectively manage rail-related incidents.

Railway infrastructure is categorised into two main types:

  • Managed infrastructure – typically within an urban rail system, such as a metro system or rail infrastructure that has holistic emergency response protocols, often managed by a train operating company
  • Unmanaged infrastructure – typically in more remote areas and likely to be managed by Network Rail

Both types will prompt a certain response from the infrastructure operators, but this will differ based on their capability and geographical constraints that may affect response and attendance times.

Designated walking routes and warning signs

Some parts of the rail network have designated walking routes to provide safe access; these are normally found near depots, sidings or stations. It may be appropriate for personnel to use these routes during the incident.

Designating temporary walking routes may assist when establishing a safe system of work, so as to avoid hazards such as lineside cable trunking or narrow areas with limited clearance. Safety signs should be observed when using walking routes. On some parts of the railway, the space between the track and the nearest wall or structure is very narrow, these areas are identifiable with signage which include:

Limited clearance warning sign

The red signs shown above indicate that there is no position of safety on this side of the railway for the length of structure beyond it. It is not safe to enter or stand at that location when a train is approaching.

No refuges warning sign

The blue sign shown above indicates there are no refuges on this side of the railway, but there are on the other side. Again, this example of signage clearly indicates that the area beyond is too dangerous for personnel while rail vehicles are running on the side that does not have refuges.

Prohibition warningsign

The sign shown above indicates there are no refuges and that no positions of safety exist. Personnel should not go past this point when rail vehicles are running.

Refer to the RSSB Handbook RS521, Signals, Handsignals, Indicators and Signs for further illustrations and descriptions of safety signs.

Level crossings

Local knowledge of level crossings will assist when attending incidents, as this will contribute to determining the appropriate response. Incidents may require rail and road vehicles to be stopped, potentially with the isolation of electricity involved.

For stopping the movement of rail vehicles refer to Safe system of work: Moving rail vehicles. For isolating rail power systems refer to Establish proportionate control over the railway.

Any debris on level crossings can affect rail vehicles; presence of this should be reported to the rail authority, with rail vehicles stopped until the tracks are clear.

Bridges and viaducts

Before any entry into tunnels or onto viaducts, rail traffic should be stopped. It may also be necessary to stop road traffic if it is involved in the rail-related incident.

Bridges or viaducts that have been struck by moving road or rail traffic should be examined by the infrastructure manager. For more information refer to the Network Rail website, Responding to bridge strikes.

All bridges and viaducts have unique identifying numbers marked by a metal plaque. These numbers should be relayed to the infrastructure manager, and can be used to establish the exact location of the incident.

Depots or sidings

Because of the complexities of working at rail depots or sidings, pre-planning should take place to gain an understanding about the types of rail vehicle movements that may occur.

Personnel should not stand immediately behind, in front of, or adjacent to rail vehicles on a siding or depot as their movement may take place without warning. Until confirmation is given that all rail vehicle movements are controlled, personnel should not:

  • Attempt to move between two stationary rail vehicles, or between a stationary rail vehicle and fixed objects such as stop blocks, unless there is gap of least 30m
  • Crawl under, or over, any rail vehicles

As there is the potential for a wide variety of hazardous loads to be contained with rail vehicles in depots or sidings, it is important to seek the assistance of rail staff to identify unmarked loads.

Railway points

If entry onto the tracks is required, proportionate control over the railway should be applied. This will usually prevent point movements, but the hazard of point movements should always be considered and caution exercised when crossing or working near railway points.

Site-Specific Risk Information

Certain locations will require the fire and rescue services to carry out pre-planning to establish the managing party, and identify the uses and processes that are undertaken at the location. This information should be used to develop appropriate Site-Specific Risk Information (SSRI). These plans should identify areas of ownership and management responsibility such as:

  • The train operating companies (TOCs)
  • The freight operating companies (FOCs)
  • Provision of safe access for the fire and rescue service
  • Type and control of power supplies
  • The responsible person for providing information relating to hazards, including rail freight
  • The responsible person who will attend tactical command briefings, including details of their jurisdiction
  • Contact details for TOCs, FOCs and responsible person

Utilities adjacent to rail infrastructure

Local fire and rescue services should identify the presence of additional electrical supplies when carrying out routine familiarisation visits.

The duty for isolating the supply rests with the utilities undertaker, refer to Utilities and fuel: Isolate utility or fuel supply within the national grid

Trunking covers should not be used as walkways along the trackside as they are not designed for that purpose and may fail.

Health precautions

Personnel and other emergency responders should be made aware that there may be biological hazards, including human waste, trackside at a rail-related incident. Appropriate personal protection measures and hygiene arrangements should be followed. For more information refer to Operations – Manage the risk from infectious diseases.

Strategic Actions

Tactical Actions