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-   -   Ear defenders. May save your hearing but not your life? (https://www.pprune.org/jet-blast/623201-ear-defenders-may-save-your-hearing-but-not-your-life.html)

goofer3 4th Jul 2019 22:23

From a 1970's BR Rule Book;
Arrangements when risk of Lookoutman's warning not being heard.
When there is a risk that the Lookoutman's warning may not be heard by the men engaged on the work, due to undue noise from mechanical plant or other cause, the man-in-charge must appoint sufficient lookoutmen to ensure that warning of approaching trains may be conveyed to each man, if necessary by touch.

From what I remember the Lookout man would wear a Lookout man armlet, this was so you would not distract him from his duty.

Blues&twos 4th Jul 2019 22:55

Icare9

They must have been either working on the wrong piece of track, or the train was on the wrong line.
​​​​​Whilst it is possible the workers were on the wrong line (again there has been a recent RAIB report published about a near-miss caused by exactly that), it is very unlikely indeed that the train was running on the wrong line. It's much more common though for these incidents to be caused by safety procedures not being followed correctly/at all or informal 'systems' being used locally. Poor planning and supervision usually come into it at some stage leading to the protection becoming ineffective, even though the workers and the trains are where they should be.

ShyTorque 4th Jul 2019 23:10

My paternal grandfather was a track worker (he was a welder, using noisy equipment and obviously, a darkened eye shield) and he was tragically killed by a train in very similar circumstances. The accident was caused because a goods train driver, who after safely passing the workers, stopped hard then reversed without permission, against all safety rules. I still look after my grandfather's grave, even though it was almost 70 years ago and I never met him. My grandmother and to a lesser extent, my father and his sister, never got over their loss. All of their graves are very close to his. :sad:

TLDNMCL 5th Jul 2019 01:57


Originally Posted by er340790 (Post 10509660)
Hard hats sadly have a similar limitation - I have personally lost count of the number of times I have hit my noggin against objects that were just out of sight above their front 'safety' rim.

There's a reason most miners wear their hard hats back-to-front.

I agree; I have had more incidents than enough owing to being unable to see what I was doing or where I was climbing up to wearing those bloody things, plus the loss of control of heavy tools at height as a result of having to wear ill fitting and ill suited wicket keeper style gloves. Arse covering in place of common sense.

TLDNMCL 5th Jul 2019 02:46


Originally Posted by Dan_Brown (Post 10509649)

There is more to this than ear defenders - someone failed to issue due warning, or someone failed to take note and heed /distribute the warning effectively: perhaps the intended audience didn't receive it. The on-track safety systems (last resort) either were not adhered to, or casually ignored. Awful situation. Someone is in the crap. A sorry state of affairs.

WingNut60 5th Jul 2019 02:58


Originally Posted by TLDNMCL (Post 10509894)
I agree; I have had more incidents than enough owing to being unable to see what I was doing or where I was climbing up to wearing those bloody things, plus the loss of control of heavy tools at height as a result of having to wear ill fitting and ill suited wicket keeper style gloves. Arse covering in place of common sense.

Having spent a lot of time in both underground and open cast (open cut) mines, I am, more than ever, confused about what the draughters of mining regs think is going to fall on your head in an open-cut mine.


Krystal n chips 5th Jul 2019 06:06


Originally Posted by TLDNMCL (Post 10509910)
There is more to this than ear defenders - someone failed to issue due warning, or someone failed to take note and heed /distribute the warning effectively: perhaps the intended audience didn't receive it. The on-track safety systems (last resort) either were not adhered to, or casually ignored. Awful situation. Someone is in the crap. A sorry state of affairs.

The RAIB report, as others have said, will make interesting and sobering reading. The on track safety systems are not a last resort hence the reason for a COSS to be present. Just out of interest, is anybody here even vaguely familiar with trackside working regs ?...mainline that is. My own knowledge, limited I admit, but relevant, comes from heritage lines, but, the same basic criteria apply.

I exclude current, and former, rail professionals ( of whom we are fortunate to have a few as contributors ) from the above of course.

Spare a thought also, not mentioned by anybody so far, for the trauma of those directly involved.....the driver and the train manager....the former in particular...and those in the vicinity who survived . I know people who have dealt with the aftermath, (sadly, a train is an often used form of suicide for the poor souls taking this desperate action, ) and the result takes no imagination .


Hard hats.......as seen at Waddington when working there stripping down the last "Nimrod "........5 Sqdn decided to take their new(ish) toy, at the time for a walk ....we were amused to see it took no less than six people, and presumably one on the brakes , walking in various positions to conduct this complex task........all wearing hard hats.

tdracer 5th Jul 2019 06:58

If the environment was noisy enough that hearing protection was needed, I doubt that they would have heard an approaching train even if they weren't wearing hearing protection.
Years ago I had an ongoing argument with another driver about wearing earplugs while racing - I always used them, but he refused saying he had to "be able to hear the engine". Finally I convinced him to try it during practice - he loved them and became on convert, saying that he could hear the engine better with the ear plugs - that the noise wasn't so overwhelming and he could hear the subtleties better.
I suspect the same is true when working on the railroad...

Krystal n chips 5th Jul 2019 07:13


Originally Posted by tdracer (Post 10510004)
If the environment was noisy enough that hearing protection was needed, I doubt that they would have heard an approaching train even if they weren't wearing hearing protection.
Years ago I had an ongoing argument with another driver about wearing earplugs while racing - I always used them, but he refused saying he had to "be able to hear the engine". Finally I convinced him to try it during practice - he loved them and became on convert, saying that he could hear the engine better with the ear plugs - that the noise wasn't so overwhelming and he could hear the subtleties better.
I suspect the same is true when working on the railroad...

Sorry but there are significant differences here......between either riding a motorbike or racing a car...not sure which you are referring to.....and working in a noisy environment with "xxx" tonnes of train travelling at "xxx" mph in very close proximity .

And you don't need to be wearing ear defenders not to hear the sound of an approaching train. I've witnessed three examples this year so far of people strolling along our track, technically they are trespassing, with their ears blocked with those little bits of cable attached to their music device......they don't even react to the warning horn.....but it's amusing to watch their reaction when they suddenly realise there is a now stationary train stopped safely behind them.


Kiltrash 5th Jul 2019 07:58

If and a big IF the issue was the distant and local lookout not doing their job how about cumming up to the 21st centaury. Now if it is impractical or unnecessary to close a line with low traffic when doing mobile works, ie walking and checking the tightness of the bolts, however if the controllers / signallers know the location of the trains and the mobile works from GPS cannot a signal be sent to the train ( beware track workers ahead) and to the ear defenders of the track workers, (by vibration indicating train eta 20 seconds)

WingNut60 5th Jul 2019 08:18


Originally Posted by Kiltrash (Post 10510040)
If and a big IF the issue was the distant and local lookout not doing their job how about cumming up to the 21st centaury. Now if it is impractical or unnecessary to close a line with low traffic when doing mobile works, ie walking and checking the tightness of the bolts, however if the controllers / signallers know the location of the trains and the mobile works from GPS cannot a signal be sent to the train ( beware track workers ahead) and to the ear defenders of the track workers, (by vibration indicating train eta 20 seconds)

There are quite a few things that COULD have been done.
We'll have to wait to see why none of them were.

tdracer 5th Jul 2019 08:36


Originally Posted by Krystal n chips (Post 10510010)
Sorry but there are significant differences here......between either riding a motorbike or racing a car...not sure which you are referring to.....and working in a noisy environment with "xxx" tonnes of train travelling at "xxx" mph in very close proximity .

And you don't need to be wearing ear defenders not to hear the sound of an approaching train. I've witnessed three examples this year so far of people strolling along our track, technically they are trespassing, with their ears blocked with those little bits of cable attached to their music device......they don't even react to the warning horn.....but it's amusing to watch their reaction when they suddenly realise there is a now stationary train stopped safely behind them.

Krystal, the point I'm making is that in a noisy environment the different noise than an approaching train makes may not be readily discernible from the ambient noise source - wearing hearing protection won't really change that much - and not necessarily for the worse (BTW, I was talking cars, not motorbikes). Wearing hearing protection doesn't block noise - it simply reduces the db level (typical reduction is ~20-30 db). Depending on the frequency's of the noise involved, hearing protection can actually make it easier to pick up a 'new' loud noise - such as an approaching train.
This all assumes that the hearing protection is simply that - if the headphones are piping in a different noise source (such as their favorite music) - all bets are off.

davews 5th Jul 2019 08:44

I think it is unwise to speculate what happened. But in this day and age when I can sit in my house and see what trains are on that line at any time (to the nearest track circuit) I fail to see why the track workers cannot do similar and know there is a train on its way. It was a scheduled train running on time, they should have been expecting it, and the banksman if he had just a mobile phone could have double checked and reminded the men. Ear protectors are irrelevant.

A tragic loss and we all must just wait until the RAIB report comes out.

VP959 5th Jul 2019 10:26

For many years now I've had a set of Peltor ear defenders that have a built-in FM radio. Surely it must be possible to build in some form of radio warning system to ear defenders, to deal with situations like this?

The rail industry seems to be pretty safety-conscious, so I would assume that (like just about everyone else) they have to put into place safe methods of working, with appropriate risk assessments. It's pretty well-known that high speed trains give little advance warning, and clearly any form of audible alarm or warning isn't likely to work if those at risk are wearing conventional ear defenders or ear plugs, so what's the process used to warn those wearing ear protection supposed to be?

Clearly they can't have a safety person ready to tap them on the shoulder if there's a train coming, as that safety person would also have to be wearing ear protection too, if they were that close by, so would be equally oblivious to the risk. Visual warnings aren't likely to work, either, as they would presumably require the workers to look away from what they were doing every few seconds to make sure the track was clear.

Short of closing sections of track, so that trains are prohibited from entering any section where people may be working, it's hard to see how there could be any other acceptable safe way of working.

Tankertrashnav 5th Jul 2019 10:50

I see that a rail union spokesman did the usual thing after an incident like this and "demanded" an inquiry, as if they were not fully aware that an official inquiry by the rail accident investigation branch is automatic after a fatal accident on the railways. You get the same thing after aircraft crashes and similar incidents, with local MPs and councillors etc who like the sound of their own voices "demanding" an inquiry, which in all probability had started before they started shooting their mouths off.

Some unbelievably ignorant comments elsewhere on other forums such as "why didn't the driver stop when he saw the men?" :ugh:

Blues&twos 5th Jul 2019 11:01

There were several systems that I'm aware of which sounded a continuous bleep or similar in the ear defenders when the system was triggered (manually by the supervisor). At Polmont the trigger also switched off the power tools.
I don't know what the present day equivalent is.

I think there was also a warning system on high speed lines called a "Pee-wee" colloquially, which automatically sounded a loud high frequency warble on the approach of a train, when it was enabled by the track workers. Or did I dream it?

treadigraph 5th Jul 2019 13:08

Colleagues of mine had a lucky escape while working trackside a few years back. The line was live and there was some kind of error by another company's staff who were providing the safety aspect. I don't know the ins and outs or the outcome of the investigation but I do recall them being very shaken by how close it was.

yellowtriumph 5th Jul 2019 16:17

I know nothing of railway working, but I would have thought that if a section of line is being worked on then wouldn't there be a mandatory temporary speed restriction on all traffic using the line until the work is finished? I'm thinking of the sort of signs we often see by the roadside when roadside work is taking place. If a train is restricted to say 30/50 mph in the vicinity of the work there would be a much greater chance of the workforce/train driver seeing each other in plenty of time for the train driver to react if the workforce haven't moved off the line. Maybe this is the case?

charliegolf 5th Jul 2019 17:46


Originally Posted by yellowtriumph (Post 10510468)
...If a train is restricted to say 30/50 mph in the vicinity of the work there would be a much greater chance of the workforce/train driver seeing each other in plenty of time for the train driver to react if the workforce haven't moved off the line. Maybe this is the case?

You'd think so. I live nearby and have used the train frequently. The train is unlikely to have been doing much more than 50 anyway, being so soon out of Port Talbot. And the line is very straight where it happened, and the vis was perfect. Thirty might have made a difference perhaps.

ShyTorque 5th Jul 2019 17:48

I'm fairly sure that specialist companies are contracted in to co-ordinate safety during trackside work.


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