Harnessing the rail boom to improve safety outcomes

There is a concerted effort underway across the rail industry in Australia to leverage the current investment in the rail sector to improve safety outcomes.

Speakers at the 20th annual Rail Industry Safety & Standards Board (RISSB) Rail Safety Conference 2020 highlighted that with the many major projects occurring concurrently around Australia, there is the opportunity to reset and improve when it comes to safety.

John Langron, rail safety manager Sydney Metro outlined how this is happening in practice on Australia’s largest public transport project. With construction underway on the CBD and South West portion of the project, new safety practices and methods are being implemented and normalised to improve overall safety culture.

While Langron noted that on such a high visibility project there is an expectation that the project will provide safer outcomes, the size of the project is also an opportunity. In the construction phase, Sydney Metro has implemented processes that are “a step above a normal maintenance job” said Langron.

These include daily preliminary checks before starting work, including drug and alcohol testing and verification of workers’ qualifications.

On major worksites such as at Central Station, large concrete barriers have been erected to separate work sites and the live rail environment, which also reduce dust and noise pollution for passengers on the adjacent platforms.

Ways of working have shifted too. Sydney Metro has instituted a prohibition on lookout protection working and conducted on-track works under local possession authorities (LPA). Through forward planning and collaboration with Sydney Trains, this has ensured that works are done on time at a higher level of safety.

Changing safety culture however takes more that physical and administrative controls. As Langron pointed out, with a new project a new culture can be established with the formation of the organisation. There is an “Opportunity for creating the culture that Sydney Metro wants” said Langron.

The culture from the top then sets the standard for within the organisation and the principle contracts and rail transport operators that Sydney Metro interacts with. Having had this experience of working alongside Sydney Metro, Sydney Trains has now shifted to doing more routine maintenance tasks during night time when no trains are running, according to Langron.

Virtual site tour part of RISSB’s Rail Safety Conference

Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board (RISSB) has confirmed that delegates to October’s Rail Safety Conference will get a unique view into progress being made on the new metro platforms underneath Sydney’s Central Station.

Delegates will be able to see the work currently underway for Sydney Metro at the station and for the new underground pedestrian concourse, Central Walk.

With the station’s new landmark roof taking shape, the virtual site tour will also provide a vision of what the redesigned Central Station will look like when Central Walk opens in 2022 and when metro services commence in 2024.

Delegates will join principal contractor Laing O’Rourke as they dive into the construction site, showing progress for Central Walk, then the tour will go deeper into the new metro station box, currently at 18 metres underground and on the way to the depth of 30 metres.

While construction has benefited from lower commuter numbers passing through Central Station during the COVID-19 pandemic, innovative construction measures and techniques have been used to reduce the impact of major construction occurring at the busiest station in Australia.

During the tour, techniques to ensure safety on a complex project such as this will be shared with the audience. Laing O’Rourke will also be showcasing its use of artificial intelligence computer vision safety system during day one of the conference program.

The virtual site tour is one of a number of online interactive experiences that will be part of the two-day event. Nine streams covering issues most important to the rail industry, including track worker safety, level crossings, investigations, and data and information, will be a highlight of the two-day program. Six keynote presentations from local and international rail safety leaders will set the tone for the days’ discussions.

To find out more and book tickets, follow the link: https://www.informa.com.au/event/conference/rissb-rail-safety-conference/

Sharing investigations – lessons for industry

In its monthly column, the Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board discusses the Sharing Investigations Forums scheduled in March and September 2020.

One of the forums RISSB co-ordinates on behalf of the rail industry in Australia and New Zealand is the Sharing Investigations Forum. The aim of this forum is to share lessons from a deep dive into incidents involving rail transport operators.

The ATSB has attended part of each forum and provided an analysis of, and lessons from, a rail incident. Or at the most recent forum, from an aviation incident. Featuring high on the agenda has been a presentation from a university around incident investigation and systems thinking.

To date, two forums have been held – one in Melbourne in 2018 and the other in Brisbane in 2019. Both Sharing Investigations forums were fully booked, and feedback was phenomenal with two further forums planned for 2020 – Sydney on 30th March at John Holland, Pyrmont and the second in Perth, likely to be held in September 2020 at Fortescue Metals Group in Perth.

Organisations that have presented and discussed an incident and the ensuing investigation into that incident have included: MTM, TasRAIL, ARTC, QR, Arc Infrastructure and Aurizon.

While there were many lessons shared, there were several common but critical lessons for industry that emerged from the in-depth discussions.

These include:

  • The need for clear, accurate safety critical communication (including the need to proactively monitor and demonstrate this).
  • The need to support identification of local risks (where workers do not perceive the level of risk, or the changing risk profile over time on site).
  • The importance of leadership from senior management/senior executives (response to incident is to ensure safety before continuing operations).
  • The benefits of reinforcing positive behaviours (through providing a just and safe culture).
  • Clarity on each person’s role and responsibility (ambiguity leading to assumptions that something was done).

RISSB is gathering lessons from these forums and turning them into a series of key lessons for industry that will be presented at the 2020 RISSB Rail Safety Conference in Sydney on 31 March and 1 April 2020.

In relation to communications, RISSB has worked with industry
to develop and publish a Safety Critical Communications Guideline (January 2018) and has since developed and is offering a Safety Critical Communications Course.

For more information about RISSB’s 2020 Rail Safety Conference, please visit www.rissb.com.au/events/rissb-rail-safety- conference-2020/

To view RISSB’s 2020 training and events, please visit www.rissb.com.au/events/.