December 19, 2019

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Margam rail accident

Margam rail accident: ‘No lookout involvement’ when track workers struck by train

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has issued an interim report following an incident in which track workers were struck by a train at Margam, South Wales, on 3 July 2019. A full report, including any recommendations to improve safety, will be issued at the conclusion of the investigation.

Margam rail accident: The incident

Margam rail accidentAt around 09:52 hrs on Wednesday 3 July 2019, two track workers were struck and fatally injured by a passenger train at Margam East Junction on the South Wales Main Line. A third track worker came very close to being struck. These three workers, who were part of a group of six staff, were carrying out maintenance work on 9577B points. The driver had made an emergency application of the train’s brakes about nine seconds before the accident and the train was travelling at about 50 mph (80 km/h) when it struck the track workers.

Early conclusions

The RAIB’s preliminary conclusion is that the accident occurred because the three track workers were working on a line that was open to traffic, without the presence of formally appointed lookouts to warn them of approaching trains. All three workers were almost certainly wearing ear defenders, because one of them was using a noisy power tool, and all had become focused with the task they were undertaking. None of them was aware that a train was approaching them until it was too late to move to a position of safety.

Working on an open line without a formally appointed lookout meant that no single individual stood apart from the work activity at the points with the sole responsibility of providing a warning when trains approached. The absence of a lookout with no involvement in the work activity removed a vital safety barrier.

The investigation is continuing. This report describes the findings and conclusions so far, and outlines the areas for further investigation. These include, amongst others:

  • The factors and group dynamics that influenced the actions of the track workers involved.
  • The planning of the work and whether it was appropriate for the location and type of work; and the way that planning paperwork was interpreted by track workers and their supervisors.
  • The working practices at Port Talbot depot at the time of the accident, with a particular focus on the way that the maintenance teams at Port Talbot depot were managed and supervised.
  • Organisational culture and its impact on safety behaviours.

Read the interim report here.

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