Tuesday 29th Sep, 2020

Meeting the standard for rail safety

Road/rail equipment specialist Manco Rail has seen a lot of change in its 40-year history of custombuilt equipment for rail electrification and rail maintenance projects.

The company has met industry need for safety developed its technologies over the years to become more integrated with mainline production methods, ensuring its offerings meet the highest standards of safety and efficiency.

‘Necessity is the mother of invention’ as the old adage goes, and increasingly stringent safety policies in the rail and construction industries have led to a number of innovations for Manco’s bespoke output, according to Manco general manager Ryan Black.

“Back in the day you could get some sheet metal, whack a few bits and pieces together and ‘She’ll be ‘right’,” he says. “That’s kind of how we got started, but now we look at projects where we’re operating machinery on a computer with so many certifications and safety guidelines and standards, and that also applies to our bespoke material.”

This evolution is in keeping with comments made Infrastructure Australia chief executive Romilly Madew, who recently commented at the AFR National Infrastructure Summit in Melbourne that new technologies often push boundaries before the need for controlling legislation is developed or even recognised.

Manco’s developments in areas such as trackbound elevated work platforms (EWPs), overhead line tensioners and scissor lifts have developed to meet the pace of this industry need.

Tensioners in particular have provided a strong outlet for safety over the years given their primary purpose of tensioning wires while avoiding overtensioning, which can lead to breakage. Wire tensioning equipment allows for the simultaneous tensioning of contact and catenary wires.

Manco’s latest tensioner vehicle, the Manco Rail WT2020, which is capable of running dual overhead wire under final tension parameters, is a good example of how the company achieves this.

Building off of existing European wagon-mounted methods, the tensioning technology was built using two 350HP Isuzu FVZ Road Rail vehicles combined to form a single consist that can be controlled by one person via radio remote control.

“We’ve been crazy to build it to be honest, but that would be known as the most innovative piece of high rail equipment in the country, or even in southeast Asia,” Ryan says. “Issues like wire breaks are all too common, so it’s a great way to improve safety in this regard.”

It’s a far cry from the company’s wiring train from the 1970s, which required several manual operators who were not often dressed to the standards of modern operators.

“There have been massive changes in PPE,” says Manco group managing director Bryan Black. “Where forty years ago, jandals, sandshoes, T-shirts, shorts and straw hats were frequently the norm, this has now fortunately been replaced by quality visual apparel, matched with a high standard of head, eye and ear protection.”

Bryan adds that operator awareness is another prevalent element of modern rail safety that has seen Manco evolve over several decades decades. His experience with operators manuals and their ability to provide both the correct knowledge of the equipment and the associated risks for the operator, is at odds with today’s expectations from many regulators and contractors.

This is something that dates back to the company’s days as a key supplier of plant to Italian contractors CITRA and the Australian Infrastructure company EPT (Electrification, Power & Transmission) in 1979, a time when both companies were extensively involved in the electrification of the line from the Central Queensland Copal fields to Mackay.

Bryan, a mechanical engineer with forty-two years of experience in the rail industry, says that when it comes to safe operating practices on rail, one-on-one operator training designed to practically convey plant and equipment safety methods has been supplanted by dense operational manuals.

Today’s rail operators’ manuals in most cases have become such complex documents of over 100 plus pages that most operators struggle with the content and seldom refer to them after the initial induction.

Black suggests that a key operators’ document should be provided summarising key safety and risk assessment bullet points as well as daily maintenance checks and basic operating procedures as part and parcel of a physical induction.

Manco’s safety philosophy in this respect takes a leaf from the aviation industry, where cumbersome operational manuals are eschewed in favour of lighter documents that provide easy-tofind information in an emergency. This approach can serve to enhance safety, reduce risk and improve operational performance, particularly in situations where time is of the essence.

“There is a time and place for the fully detailed operators, but priority needs to focus on the abbreviated daily check sheets handed out at the time the equipment is handed over by the manufacturer to the end-user,” he explains. “It is very appropriate to draw comparisons with rail plant operators’ procedures and that of today’s commercial pilots both fixed and rotary wing.

“Pilots specifically use brief, laminated, easy-to-read checklists as their main point of reference — normally in A5 size and sequenced to follow start-up, operation and shutdown procedures — with full detailed aircraft operational manuals are generally only referred to in emergencies, abnormal performance or operational activity.”

This philosophy of safety by reduction is emblematic of Manco’s approach to engineering; while the designs of its rail equipment are often complex, their use is not.

Overall, Manco’s assured approach to engineering, which has been honed over the last four decades in combination with a pioneering spark, is seeing the company take safety forward.


Contact: mancoeng.com.au

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