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June 23, 2021

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Rail safety

Getting the UK’s rail operations back on track

As the UK continues to ease out of the third national lockdown – with people beginning to return to the workplace and a gradual lifting of leisure-related restrictions – rail operators are preparing for an increase in passenger footfall…

Coronavirus trainIn order to cope with the increased level of demand, it is likely that additional services will be timetabled, requiring the use of rolling stock and station facilities which may have been taken out of use or even ‘mothballed’ during lockdown. As part of the plan to get the nation ‘back on track’ over the coming months, there are a number of factors that rail operators and organisations must take into consideration to ensure that they maintain a safe, compliant and efficient customer service and working environment.

Legionella and water management

One key area that rail operators must take into account when getting their trains and station facilities back up and running is managing the level of risk posed by Legionella, which can colonise water systems such as cold water storage tanks, pipe runs, hot water systems and little used outlets. With some station and office facilities having been out of use – or in the case of rolling stock, even mothballed – over the lockdown period, there is an increased chance of water systems housing stagnant water, an environment in which Legionella bacteria is known to thrive.

Given the time periods involved (which in some cases, is approaching a full year), these systems will need to be recommissioned as if they are a new build before coming back into use. If the assets had been mothballed, the following advice provides guidance based on HSE Technical Guidance HSG274 Part 2 and British Standard document PD855468:2015.

Small and simple water systems

These types of systems are defined by HSG274 Part 2 as those that are mains fed with local point of use hot water systems (combination boilers and units with a capacity of 15 litres or less), such as dwellings or small offices. Additionally, SOCOTEC defines these as buildings with less than 10 rooms with water facilities present.

Recommissioning

  • As close to re-occupancy as possible, flush every hot and cold outlet (including attached equipment such as dishwashers, drinks machines etc) for at least five minutes
  • It is recommended that those carrying out flushing minimise aerosol release or wear appropriate PPE
  • After flushing, check that hot and cold water temperatures are compliant with HSG274 Part 2 at all outlets
  • Complete ‘Permit to Open’ form for each building.

Large and complex water systems

Large and complex water systems are defined as those which have one or more cold water storage tanks, stored hot water units with a capacity above 15 litres and high risk items such as bathing showers or spray taps. Additionally, SOCOTEC defines these as buildings with 10 or more rooms with water facilities present.

Recommissioning

  • As close to re-occupancy as possible, undertake a disinfection of the hot and cold water systems (including cold water tanks and hot water units) in accordance with HSG274 Part 2 and PD855468:2015
  • The disinfection chemical must be drawn to all outlets, with sentinel point checks undertaken to confirm the required level has been achieved throughout the system
  • If chemical disinfection of the hot water system is not possible, undertake a thermal disinfection
  • Disinfect shower heads and spray outlets
  • Flush all outlets to ensure a full turnover of the system and empty and refill cold water tanks with fresh water
  • It is recommended that those carrying out any flushing during disinfection minimise aerosol release or wear appropriate PPE
  • Reinstate hot and cold water systems and check that water temperatures are compliant with HSG274 Part 2 across all outlets
  • Flush all outlets weekly until re-occupancy. If a phased occupancy is taking place, those outlets not in use must be flushed weekly
  • Put in place a sampling plan and take water samples at least 48 hours after disinfection for the following analysis:
    • Potable water tanks and outlets – Coliform, E.coli and TVC at 22°C and 37°C
    • All systems – Legionella bacteria. Take samples from tanks, hot water units and representative outlets as defined by sampling plan, including incoming mains
  • Complete ‘Permit to Open’ form for each building.

On-board water systems

Rail operators have a duty of care to minimise the risk to passengers and employees by managing the potential for the growth of Legionella which, if inhaled via water droplets, can lead to Legionnaires’ disease.  As part of ACOP L8 and HSG274 legislation, water systems including those on board trains must be subjected to regular monitoring and maintenance, which can include regular cleaning, flushing, inspection and disinfection.

For rolling stock which has been out of use for a prolonged period the following actions are required before the units are reintroduced back into service.

  • As close to reintroduction to service as possible, undertake a full disinfection of the on-board water systems, including cold water storage tanks, down service pipework, hot water heaters and mixer valves in accordance with HSG274 Part 2 and PD855468:2015
  • The disinfection chemical must be drawn to the outlets, with point checks undertaken to confirm that the required level of disinfection has been achieved throughout the system
  • Clean and disinfect tap nozzles, including spray and aerator outlets
  • Flush all outlets to ensure a full turnover of the system, emptying and refilling cold water tanks with fresh water
  • It is recommended that those carrying out any flushing during disinfection minimise aerosol release or wear appropriate PPE
  • Reinstate hot and cold water systems and check water temperatures are compliant with HSG274 Part 2 at all outlets
  • With regards to on-board catering facilities, ensure that all UV steriliser systems are functioning correctly and that hot drinks machines are heating the water to the required temperature
  • If on-board system usage when is service is still limited, regularly drain and refill cold water tanks with fresh water to prevent stagnation and improve water turnover.

A Legionella risk assessment will determine how frequently these tasks need to be carried out to keep the level of risk posed by the bacteria at a minimum and safeguard the health and wellbeing of employees and passengers.

Rolling stock maintenance

Like any kind of machinery, if rolling stock is not properly or regularly maintained, it has the capacity to lead to widespread disruption and delays, as well as significantly compromising the health and safety of passengers and workers. As many trains will have been out of use or used less frequently over the course of the pandemic, it is therefore increasingly likely that parts of the engine/machinery may have deteriorated or given way to undetected issues.

Engine wear and/or lubricant condition quality are two elements which are fundamental to the safety and reliability of locomotives, so rail organisations should regularly test and analyse oils, coolants and greases on their rolling stock to ensure that they are operating smoothly. By undertaking oil condition monitoring at regular intervals, rail organisations can pre-empt and identify any early stage faults that would have otherwise gone undetected until the asset had failed. Not only will this increase the longevity and integrity of rolling stock, but it will also ensure the health and safety of your workforce and passengers.

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Driver Safety eBook cover

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