Wednesday 3rd Jun, 2020

The industry SPAD Group: Tackling a perennial issue through engagement and innovation

SPAD Working Group

RISSB is coordinating the industry-driven SPAD Working Group.

Data from the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR) shows that in the 12 months from March 2019 to February 2020, there were over 1,200 reported signals passed at danger (SPADs), more than 500 of which involved the limit of authority being missed by train crew. While there has been a reduction in the number of technical SPADs reported when compared to the previous 12-month period, the number of human factor SPADs reported has seen little improvement.

Given the substantial safety risks presented by SPAD incidents, the rail industry has created a SPAD Working Group. Originally established under the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) and led by Todd Bentley from Metro Trains Melbourne, the SPAD Group created a forum for rail managers, professionals to talk and share ideas. It initiated research projects to draw insights into this perennial issue and created an Australasian SPAD categorisation for reporting SPAD occurrences.

RISSB continues to co-ordinate this group, now led by Craig Dance from V/Line and industry representation is wider than ever, including members from New Zealand, covering heavy and light rail, freight and passenger operations.

The SPAD Group has instigated a number of research projects, led by associate professor Anjum Naweed from CQUniversity, many of which have been finalised with rich, practical industry outcomes.

Current projects include:

Training the train controller – It may seem counterintuitive, but controllers and signallers can inadvertently influence and even increase the likelihood of a SPAD. This project involves 10 rail organisations and focuses on non-technical skills training, an area that is seldom covered in adequate detail in current training approaches. A presentation on the outcomes of this project is planned for the RISSB Safety Conference in October this year.

SPAD pre-cursor behaviours – having initially collected over 200 SPAD reports from member rail organisations, more than 750 people subsequently completed a survey which examined a range of pre-cursor factors. These are being analysed by looking at system factors in a number of ways, including psychometrics, mindfulness and attention, driver behaviour, and sleep and work schedules.

Relieving drivers – this new project is aiming to gain a better understanding of current practices associate with relieving drivers and determining their return to work. It will identify what known risks are being mitigated when relieving drivers, including the perceived effectiveness of these mitigations, but also what unknown risks are being introduced, and how they may be controlled. Ten rail organisations are involved in this project.

The SPAD Group has also discussed a range of projects it proposes to examine in the next stream, including:

  1. Pro-forma development for SPAD investigations (through RISSB – a spin- off from SPAD Pre-cursor Behaviour project);
  2. SPAD risk and new technology and altered or new infrastructure;
  3. Risk Triggered Commentary;
  4. Mobile devices and distraction (update); and
  5. Establishing and sharing an education library of SPAD information.

The SPAD Group provides a forum for the industry to share successes, learn about new SPAD initiatives, and focus on key areas to mitigate SPADs.


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