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Health & Safety in 2015

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I'm not sure how I feel about this video!

1. OMG! This is awful! Where is the site safety plan, closed lines, fencing, signage, insurance etc.? I see hundreds of European H&S rules being broken.


2. Good old yanks! Just get on with it and get the job done. Maybe that's what's missing in this country?!


Curious to hear members thoughts, especially those involved with the real thing here in Ireland or the UK? In the video I see loaders out on the live running lines, cables and air lines across the tracks, machines scurrying between the trains. Would that be acceptable here? I'm guessing not. Did the job cost a quarter of what it would cost here? Probably! Is it the right way to do things? I'd imagine not, but it's quite a contrast to what we are used to this side of the Atlantic nowadays.

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Like the Network Rail video, UP turnout replacement looks like a very professional operation that involved a lot of planning. The level of risk and required controls are far different the American example is on low speed trackage in a yard, the UK example the replacement of a crossover on a relatively high speed freight and passenger line.


The absence of fencing and people/equipment crossing the track in the American example is not really an issue, all trains are required to stop and obtain authorisation from the person in control of the possession before proceeding.


It noticeable in the UP video that all machinery movement is stopped and the crew return to a safe position during train movements.

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There may not be H&S legislation in the US but then there is there legal system which very often gives a similar result - anyone who has driven in the US will be aware of the level of personal insurance you are required to have just in case!




The US has H&S Legislation and the legislation is enforced: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RIl0BM0ZEE4.


There is even a similar overlap to the UK & Ireland between the rail and occupational health and safety regulators http://utu.org/worksite/PDFs/safetylawsummary/OccupationalSafetyHealthAct.pdf


American H&S legislation is more prescriptive or rule based than the UK & Ireland. Workers are trained expected to follow the rules or face the consequences The less rule based performance driven legislation in the UK & Ireland may lead a duty holder to take a more cautious approach than what is actually required by legislation or would result in any real risk reduction.


I suppose the big question is how IE & Network Rails injury rate for track workers compares with Union Pacific?

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There can be a lot of pretentiousness in H&S. I am all for both health and safety and any real progress is to be applauded.


I worked in a high voltage industry and could be subjected to both extremes of the pretentious side of H&S. I once came back to the office for a cup of tea, having just tested a circuit breaker at 500kV in the open air, in a test area whose interlocks had never worked in the twenty years that I was there - we used to hope that people knew that the hum really did mean instant death and some of us used to wedge chairs under the door handles, as an extra precaution. When I got back to the office (having not killed and set fire to anybody), I was told that I couldn't use the kettle because it hadn't been PAT-tested.


Eventually, the Health & Safety Executive could stand it no longer and insisted it be fixed - "We'll install a permit system", they were told, and the HSE agreed to that. Some days later, I wanted to test another item and asked for my permit. I was told that I didn't need it - I asked who else had permits, as I wanted some help with some parts of the test - "Everybody that works here has a permit", I was told, "they're all in a drawer in Personnel."


As far as I know, it was never fixed.....


I also got electrocuted in a substation, having asked the chap that was putting all the various different coloured cones and flags out "Is everything off?" - "Yes!", he told me - I got a belt off the first very first thing I touched and fell six feet onto the gravel. "You must have touched the heater, we always leave the heaters on"


I told him that I would ask him again in five minutes "Is everything off?" and, if he lied to me again, then he'd better hope that it killed me next time, or I would kill him, using as many of his special cones as I could fit in.

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I support the H&S idea, it goes without question that there should be a system to protect workpeople carrying out a process that potentially could kill or maim for life, not to mention all the other associated ramifications. One of the main problems is human interpretations- a H&S plan is only as good as the understanding the person who writes has of the processes involved in the work and how H&S officers on the ground implement it....


Borithe's example is clear evidence of this.


My experiences of H&S is in the building industry and I have seen and experienced good management of it and mad abuse of it. One example is we were constructing a high-bay storage facility in North Dublin, a roof height of 11.5 meters which required a serious section to be written in our H&S plan at design stage for the roof workpeople working at this level. A fall from this height onto a concrete floor is instant death. When it came time to erect the roof beams I visited the site and as I approached from a good 1/2 mile from the site I could see a workperson walking across a roof beam of 300mm with no life line attached, I thought to myself 'a there must be a catch net under, but still there is no excuse'. When I entered the site to my horror there was no catch net and everyone up on the roof had life lines on but not attached to anything! I asked the foreman acting as H&S officer for the works to refer to his H&S plan for construction stage to see that the roofers were complying with it and was told 'a sure that's the way they work, if we ask for lifelines to be attached they will walk off site'!!


One other, though not as serious- We were working for an outside contractor on a site, every time we visited the site we were sent to induction (architects are exempt from this) 1&1/2 hours of how to ware our shoes, site cloths, hard hats, and using drills, ladders...... it's endless, well 1&1/2 hours of it. We found out later that the H&S office for the main contractor was under orders to make as much difficulty he could for our design team to access onto the site!


The problem with H&S system is humans



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The problem with H&S system is humans


When this building.....




...was being built, I saw a chap, wearing a full-harness and with a fall-arrest lanyard attached, walking along the ridge.


In an effort to avoid tripping on the trailing lanyard, he was holding the hook as high as he could - although, this did make it look like he was hoping that the hook might stay there if he fell...


He survived his journey and got back into the building before I could access my camera.


Having no fear of heights does make you less likely to fall, I suppose, but some people take it a bit far.


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Back to the original video, it's reassuring that there is still a bit of common sense in use. I'm wondering have I become hyper cautious in my thinking, as my job is so over the top with health and safety in general. I'll leave the last word to Jeremy....



(Image credit: Top Gear/BBC)

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