UK: Poor training led to derailment
Failings in staff training were the underlying cause of a derailment to a freight train according to a report from Britain's Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
The accident occurred on 27 December 1997 at Barry Island, South Wales. The train, operated by EWS (English Welsh and Scottish Railways) was hauling nine tankers each containing 60 tonnes of the flammable, liquified gas Vinyl Chloride Monomer. It had reached Cadoxton, Barry Docks when a railway shunter incorrectly operated a points lever moving the points as the last wagon passed over them. This wagon fell on its side and was dragged along for a short distance.
As a precautionary measure, around 1000 people being evacuated from their homes.
As a result of its investigations, the HSE identified weaknesses in training and competency of staff and found that emergency arrangements were not fully co-ordinated by all railway companies.
The HSE has recommended that co-operation between Railtrack, EWS and dangerous goods consignors should be improved to ensure that there is proper co-ordination of safety systems and procedures for dealing with emergencies. Two further recommendations have been made regarding training and supervision of employees involved in the movement of dangerous goods and that Railtrack and EWS should review the risk where hand operated points exist on lines where dangerous goods are carried. The full text of the recommendations is reproduced below.
- There should be improved co-operation between Railtrack, English
Welsh and Scottish Railway and dangerous goods consignors, in order
to ensure that there is proper co-ordination of their respective
safety systems and procedures for dealing with rail dangerous goods
emergencies. The detail and extent of such systems and procedures
should relate to the degree of risk involved, with special attention
given to bulk flows of major hazard dangerous goods.
- Railtrack and English Welsh and Scottish Railway should identify
all locations where hand points exist on dangerous goods freight
lines and conduct a review to consider the risk of mishandling, the
likely consequences of a derailment and what reasonably practicable
measures may be taken to reduce the risks.
- Railtrack and English Welsh & Scottish Railway should review the
information, instruction, training and supervision of all their
employees who are involved both with the movement of dangerous goods
trains and in managing dangerous goods incidents. The review should
also examine the systems for assessing whether such employees are
fully competent and fit to carry out their duties. Additionally,
where first-response site staff cover an area through which there are
significant flows of a particular substance, then training should be
given on the specific hazards of this product.
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COMMENT: Push - Pull - the Hidden Dangers
by R H State
Health and Safety Executive
Freight train laden with toxic chemicals derailed at Barry, South Wales
27 Dec 97