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Dan_Brown 4th Jul 2019 18:42

Ear defenders. May save your hearing but not your life?
 
https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/943398...stern-railway/


'ALWAYS HAPPY'

Tributes to rail workers, 58 and 64, killed by train they couldn’t hear after wearing ear defenders

  • Molly Rose Pike
  • 4 Jul 2019, 9:47
  • Updated: 4 Jul 2019, 12:49
TRIBUTES have been paid to the two railway workers who died together when they were hit by a train yesterday morning.

Gareth Delbridge, 64, from Kenfig Hill, South Wales, and his co-worker, Michael ‘Spike’ Lewis, 58, of North Cornelly, were wearing ear defenders and didn't hear the train coming before it struck them near Port Talbot.

Mr Delbridge was described as a "true gentleman" by John Hyde, club director of Kenfig Hill RFC, of which the victim was a huge fan.

Writing on the club's Facebook page, Mr Hyde described Gareth as a much loved family and popular at the club.

He said: "Gareth was always happy and joyful.

"He loved his darts and had been involved with the club for 30 years as a member of the darts' team."

The club announced news of his death on Facebook last night.

'LOVED BY EVERYONE'

The post read: "He will be surely missed by all those who had the privilege of knowing Gareth. He was, without doubt one of the nicest persons you would ever want to meet, a true gentleman and an all round great guy. RIP Gareth we are all going to miss your happy charm."

Michael's family said he was "loved by everyone" in an emotional tribute this morning.

They said: "He was known by everyone, and loved by everyone.

"We would like to thank everyone so much for their support during this difficult time and ask that we are now given the space we need to grieve."

The two men were hit by the train just before 10am yesterday morning between Port Talbot Parkway and Bridgend railway stations.

'TRUE GENTLEMAN'

Paramedics from the Welsh Ambulance Service rushed to the scene, tragically confirming two people had died.

Network Rail was facing demands for answers last night as Transport Secretary Chris Grayling announced an investigation into the deaths near Port Talbot, South Wales.

Superintendent Andy Morgan from British Transport Police, said: “Following a number of urgent enquiries into this tragic incident, it has been established that the three people were railway workers who were working on the lines at the time.

“The initial stages of the investigation suggest that the two men who died had been wearing ear defenders at the time, tragically, could not hear the a passenger train approaching.

TRAGEDY

“We have a number of officers who remain in the area and we are continuing to work alongside the Rail Accident Investigation Branch to understand the full circumstances of what happened in the moments before this incredibly sad, fatal collision."

A passenger on board the train, which had left Swansea at 9.29am, said the train came to an abrupt stop moments after leaving Port Talbot Parkway.

He said there was a lot of shock amongst passengers as the Great Western service train came to a standstill.

He said: "We weren’t sure what was happening, but a train manager came through the train and said the railway workers had been hit by the train. We are still on the train and have been told that we are understandably going to be here for some time.

er340790 4th Jul 2019 19:04

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.

Mr Optimistic 4th Jul 2019 19:05

Network Rail will be mortified. They take track safety very seriously. Wonder what happened to the banksman.

ATNotts 4th Jul 2019 19:13

Is this the first case of PPE equipment contributing to a death at work?

Pontius Navigator 4th Jul 2019 19:34

Back in 1963 I was told not to wear hearing protect for just that reason. By 1990 their use was mandatory.

I was not entitled to a hard hat and not permitted to wear a soft one though I gave that rule a stuff ignoring. Lost count the number of times bashed my head but no damage to me or the equipment I hit.

Years later in Gibraltar in the caves I did wear a hard hat. The impact was quite severe especially in my neck in no due part to the extra height

charliegolf 4th Jul 2019 19:39

I asked this on another site... do the workers not carry explosive bangers placed on the line a safe way up the track, that go off with a hellufa bang when the train goes over it? Was this ever a thing, or did I make it up?

CG

radarman 4th Jul 2019 19:40

My initial thought was 'Elfin Safety bites its own backside'. But I doubt very much whether Network Rail's safety case relies solely (if at all) on track workers being able to hear an approaching train. There has to be more in this.

Blues&twos 4th Jul 2019 19:41

The root cause will not be related to the wearing of appropriate PPE. If ear defenders were required, it will be because noisy machinery was in use at the work site. The machinery will have also drowned out the sound of approaching trains, which are practically silent until close by in most circumstances.
The root cause will be related to the failure of the system being used to plan/supervise the work and/or warn the team of the approach of a train in plenty of time to allow them to return to their "place of safety".
Hearing the approach of a train is definitely not a measure relied upon as a safety system on the railway.
There was a multiple fatality accident at Polmont in 1983 in which several track workers were hit by a high speed train. Their safe system of work rightly required the use of ear defenders, but pretty much everything else was woefully deficient.
They even had two lookouts, one at a distance and one at the site to switch off the power tools and ensure they got clear.
The RAIB report will make interesting, if sobering reading.

mickjoebill 4th Jul 2019 19:45


Originally Posted by charliegolf (Post 10509691)
I asked this on another site... do the workers not carry explosive bangers placed on the line a safe way up the track, that go off with a hellufa bang when the train goes over it? Was this ever a thing, or did I make it up?

CG

They were in use at one time.. but I guess not much use if wearing ear defenders.

Blues&twos 4th Jul 2019 19:46

Charliegolf - detonators are strapped to the railhead and explode with a very loud bang when a train goes over them. This is to alert the driver to stop, not to warn the trackworkers. These clearly can't be used on a track still fully open to traffic, except in an emergency.

There are a number of modern electronic/radio systems which can be used now to alert trackworkers, but I assume there are criteria for using each type. Sadly, even on quiet, relatively low speed branch lines being hit by a train means time off at the undertaker.

Argonautical 4th Jul 2019 19:50

Talking to an old steam train driver today, he reckons it happened because of staff cutbacks. There should have been a guy with a flag some distance away and another, also with a flag, closer to the workers.

Dan_Brown 4th Jul 2019 20:11

It seems it's business as usual at N.R.

Blues&twos 4th Jul 2019 20:21

Flags rely on one guy never taking his eyes off the bloke with the flag. This was one of the problems at Polmont. The system is not fail safe.

uffington sb 4th Jul 2019 20:23

If using noisy machinery, then a ‘touch’ look out is used. They should have a good sighting of approaching trains or be in visual sighting of a distant lookout. When a train appears, the touch lookout then gives the workers a touch, and then they all move to a position of safety.

Ancient Mariner 4th Jul 2019 20:26

The owners of my first ship, back in '69, were to cheap to provide any sort of protective gear or clothing.
Engine rooms are noisy places so we used asbestos yarn stuffed into the ears to dampen it somewhat.
I fully expect to die from ear cancer. :hmm:
Per

er340790 4th Jul 2019 21:20


I fully expect to die from ear cancer.
Only if you breathe through your ears!!! ;)

NWSRG 4th Jul 2019 21:22


Originally Posted by Blues&twos (Post 10509695)
The root cause will not be related to the wearing of appropriate PPE. If ear defenders were required, it will be because noisy machinery was in use at the work site. The machinery will have also drowned out the sound of approaching trains, which are practically silent until close by in most circumstances.
The root cause will be related to the failure of the system being used to plan/supervise the work and/or warn the team of the approach of a train in plenty of time to allow them to return to their "place of safety".

Correct...this will be down to a failure of the Safe System of Work. The Ear Defenders might have been the last hole in the Swiss Cheese, but the process has to have been flawed somewhere, or was not being adhered to.

750XL 4th Jul 2019 21:42

Saw some stats today stating you'd have barely 3-4 seconds to 'hear' an approaching train travelling at 125mph, assuming ambient conditions etc.

Blues&twos 4th Jul 2019 21:53

750XL, yes, and that would be assuming wind neglible, no background noise.
Recent near-misses involving track workers, investigated by the RAIB show that in those cases it was usually only a couple of seconds between the workers getting clear and the train passing, and those were with trains travelling at less than 125mph, and with the horns having been sounded.
Some wobbly legs afterwards

Excerpt from latest near miss:


At around 10:52 hrs on 20 July 2018, a track worker, who was acting as a site lookout for another track worker who was carrying out an inspection, narrowly avoided being struck by a train near Peterborough station. The train involved had just passed through the station and was travelling at 102 mph (164 km/h) when its driver saw the lookout standing on the same line ahead. The driver immediately sounded the train’s warning horn and applied the brakes. The lookout responded to the train’s horn and moved out of its path about 2.5 seconds before the train reached him.

The investigation found four causal factors. The site lookout was distracted and not adequately observing his distant lookout or looking for approaching trains. He had also chosen to stand on an open line when it was not necessary to do so. The track worker carrying out the inspection, who was also the Controller of Site Safety and responsible for the safety of all the staff involved in the work, was not monitoring the unsafe actions of the lookout at the time of the incident. Lastly, the distant lookout had left his position before the train arrived because he thought he had been stood down. A distant lookout who was visible to the site lookout was from a different team and was looking out for trains coming in the opposite direction.

The investigation also found that the way in which the work was planned defaulted to using the least preferred safe system of work in the hierarchy within Network Rail’s company standard for managing the safety of people at work on or near the line. Further, the current rules for communication when lookouts are used are impractical, leading to a disregard for the rules and the use of unofficial and uncontrolled practices. These two factors were the underlying causes of the incident.
​​​​

Icare9 4th Jul 2019 22:06

For them to be wearing ear defenders suggests they were operating noisy equipment, so the Safe Working system must have failed.
How do you warn men with ear defenders that a train is approaching? You'd need to touch them or have some form of ear piece to cut through the ear protection....
They must have been either working on the wrong piece of track, or the train was on the wrong line.
Surely the most effective way to protect them would be to have a flagman waving the train to stop, thus giving a touch man time to alert the workers and remove what equipment they were using so the train could pass.
A terrible accident for all concerned, how could it go so tragically wrong?

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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