May 18, 2018

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Rail Safety

Signaller suffered life-changing injuries when hit by car at level crossing

Network Rail has been found guilty of a health and safety breach after a signaller suffered serious injuries when he was struck by a car while trying to close a level crossing gate in Kent.

Maidstone Crown Court was told that Douglas Caddell, 65, suffered life-changing injuries after being hit by the car at East Farleigh in Kent on 24 April 2015.

CCTV footage of the incident shows Mr Caddell pushing the level crossing gate when it is hit by a vehicle, causing it to bounce back and knock the signaller to the ground.

Mr Caddell’s colleagues told the court that there were frequent incidents of cars swerving across the rail tracks as signallers tried to close the gates and, on the day of the incident Mr Caddell, an experienced signaller, had reported a different near-miss with a different vehicle to the British Transport Police.

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) investigated the incident, finding that Network Rail’s risk assessment on 24 February, which consisted of only a 30-minute census of traffic use and a conversation with a signaller, incorrectly assessed the risk of deliberate misuse of the crossing as being ‘significantly lower than average’ and did not constitute a suitable or sufficient risk assessment.

The ORR also determined that the risk of a driver failing to see that the gates were being closed was foreseeable and that, despite the clear risk, Network Rail had done little or nothing to protect its employees.

Network Rail was found guilty of an offence under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and section 33 (1)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act. The jury failed to reach a verdict on a second count under the Health and Safety at work Act section 2(1)(a) and 33(1)(a) 1974. Sentencing has been adjourned to a later date.

Ian Prosser, HM Chief Inspector of Railways, said: “We are absolutely committed to protecting the health and safety of passengers and railway staff and will not hesitate to take enforcement action or press prosecutions when necessary.

“Mr Caddell suffered life-changing injuries in this incident and the court’s verdict indicates how seriously the offence is viewed.

“We are pleased that Network Rail has taken safety measures, including installing warning lights, at East Farleigh and we would expect to see proper risk assessments made at the many similar level crossings across the country and necessary safety measures taken.”

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