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Major injuries sustained by mainline industry workers, including infrastructure, train operation and maintenance staff, have risen 4%, according to the rail regulator Office of Rail and Road (ORR).

In its Annual Health and Safety Report of Performance on Britain’s Railways, published last week, the ORR has raised concerns over Network Rail’s risk management strategies.

“The lack of improvement in Network Rail’s risk management maturity, allied with the stalled improvements in performance indicators, give the strongest illustration yet of the potential vulnerability of its safety management record of recent years”, the report says. “ORR will continue working to secure targeted improvements, particularly in assurance activities, in order to promote more reliable and sustainable risk control.”

The rate of major injuries to mainline workers in 2016/17 was 16.4 per 200 million hours worked (16 in 2015/16), reflecting a total of 166 such injuries. Trips and falls at stations represented the highest contribution at 26%, though this is a 39% decrease on the year before. The overall rate of workforce fatalities and harm (including major and minor injuries, and shock and trauma) was 27.9 per 200 million hours worked (26.8 in 2015/16).

One worker was killed during the 12-month period, compared with zero deaths the previous year. A Network Rail construction manager died in a car crash in June 2016 as he drove to work.

The latest figures show that incidents reported under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) increased to 90 in 2016/17 from 72 in the previous 12 months. Major injuries to infrastructure workers on running lines rose 21% to 72, half of which involved slips, trips and falls.

The rail operator missed its lost-time injury frequency rate (LTIFR) target of 0.447, the report says, though it ended the year with its best ever rate of 0.450.

Of the 16 improvement notices served by the ORR in 2016/17, nine were handed to Network Rail over failures relating to risk assessments, guarding dangerous parts of machinery, manual handling of liquefied petroleum gas canisters, and hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS).

One hundred health cases were reported to the ORR under RIDDOR in 2016/17, up from 29 in the previous year, with reports for HAVS (85) and carpal tunnel syndrome (12) dominating the figures. Most of the cases were in the mainline railway department (see table).

The report says: “Despite progress in some areas, ORR continues to see a mismatch between the occupational health policies and procedures developed by Network Rail centrally and consistent delivery in the Network Rail routes.”


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