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Every year, accidents occur with trackside workers who are operating on the UK’s rail network. While trackside safety continues to be an industry priority, workforce fatalities and injuries do still happen, as well as near misses where workers have just seconds to move out of the path of moving trains.
One local incident can affect the entire national rail network with disproportionately high emotional, human and financial costs.
In their commitment to improving worker safety and preventing injuries, Network Rail established a Safety Task Force in 2019. This project involves collaborating with supply chain partners to the industry to deliver improvements and create a safer working environment for rail workers.
Recognising that a loss of worker situational awareness is a main cause of fatalities and near misses for track workers, Network Rail needed a system capable of addressing this issue. In May 2020, Tended was approached by the Safety Task Force to develop our high precision positioning technology and help achieve this goal.
Tended collaborated with Network Rail’s Safety Task Force to understand their specific safety challenges. The solution considered to be the most effective would enable Network Rail to plot highly-accurate geofences over worksites to map out safe areas of work and alert workers if they leave these safe working limits.
Typically, this would be done using diagrams and radio-based communication, which are prone to error and misinterpretation - considerable safety implications within high-risk environments.
Collaboratively, Tended and Network Rail’s Safety Task Force developed a first-of-its-kind geofencing solution, comprising of a wearable device combined with an online dashboard. This initial product lay the foundation for Tended to further develop and improve to deliver even more safety benefits within the rail industry.
Using Tended’s Planning Dashboard, Network Rail site managers and COSS were able to easily manage their worksites and create zones to map out safe working areas. If workers exited the geofence boundary, they were alerted in real time, warning them of their potentially dangerous position.
This helped to add an extra layer of protection to Network Rail’s worksites by increasing workers’ situational awareness when they may have otherwise strayed into hazardous areas or onto an open line.
Accuracy and effective alerts were the most critical elements of the solution to ensure workers knew they were unsafe if they lost situational awareness. Positioning accuracy of 14mm was regularly achieved throughout the project, with a median overall accuracy of 75mm, helping to provide peace of mind to both COSS and workers.
Due to the safety-critical nature of the rail industry, all devices are built and tested to fail into a safe state. Tended went through a rigorous testing and compliance process with Network Rail to ensure the safety and reliability of the solution.
1. The workers immediately responded to the device alerts to prevent a potential incident.
2. The workers gained improved situational awareness.
3. The was a sustained change in behaviour over time to safer actions.
In 2022, two Network Rail workers were involved in a near miss at London Paddington Station due to an unsafe system of work. The track workers, who had moved away from lines that were blocked to railway traffic, narrowly missed the moving train by seconds.
In this scenario, geofencing technology could have been used to create a safe working zone which would have acted as a virtual lookout for the workers. A wearable safety device would have then alerted workers the moment they exited the blocked lines, so that they could move back to safety and away from a position where they could have potentially been hit by a train.