One of the more interesting aspects of working on his tourist railway is that no member of train crew (as distinct from track workers etc.) wear any High Visibility Clothing. This can lead to extreme difficulties when working in periods of reduced visibility (such as at dusk or when raining), and when combined with the dark uniform worn by train staff has the potential to lead to a worker not being seen, and therefore an incident occurring. It is countered that a current procedure is that if someone cannot be seen, the train must be stopped until they can be seen – but procedures can be broken! The wearing of High Visibility Vests will continue to keep the already low levels of incidents there. Hopefully, it will not lead to a sense of complacency, however…
Puffing Billy operates using coal-fired locomotives. One of the inherent health dangers coal dust. These very fine particles can get in through your respiratory system, and may cause breathing difficulties long-term. One of the best ways of addressing this is watering the coal before it is loaded on the locomotive, to reduce the amount dust that goes into the confines of the locomotive. Another way could be changing from coal to other fuels for the fire, but this may have other implications as well…
This site contains materials supporting the WHS laws including; the model WHS Act, model WHS Regulations and model Codes of Practice. Analysis of data and research relating to work health and safety and workers’ compensation is available from this site.
Lachlan James's insight:
One of the critical health & safety hazards associated with working as a Driver at Puffing Billy is the extremely long days that are often worked by locomotive crews – with 10-hour-shifts considered normal, and 12-hour-shifts not unheard of. This is a significant risk, for it assumes that the crew member is sufficiently rested before the shift. However, when considering that Chris has a 60-minute drive each way to get to Puffing Billy, he may be very tired by the time he eventually gets home.
To put into perspective: if a person has been awake, their reaction levels are equivalent to an individual whose Blood Alcohol Concentration is 0.05 – the legal limit for private vehicles (and 0.05 above the legal limit for train drivers!). Factoring in the time between waking up and eventually getting home, and the longest permissible shift to be worked, it is possible that Chris is "On the go" for up to 15-hours.
This website links to a document, demonstrating the issues regarding Fatigue Management, and exactly what Chris can do to mitigate the issues in this regard.
Seen here is bus driver Anthony Perry. Anthony has been a bus driver for five years, and is seen here a left-hand bus from a tour of Europe in 2012. I spoke to him over Skype about the OH&S issues, and he says that "Fatigue is definitely not one of them." European Bus Drivers may not drive for more than four hours without a 45-minute break, may not have more than three of these long sessions at the wheel in any given day, and they have various mileage and consecutive-days driving limits, making a drive from Amsterdam – Berlin only just possible.
There are very few other issues. His seat is fitted with a seat belt and airbags, and the bus is fitted with crumple zones on the chance that he is involved in a collision. When considering the roads, the majority of the time he is driving on Motorways and other major roads throughout Europe, but there are countries – mostly in Eastern Europe – where the roads are not up to the same standard as others, so extreme care must be taken when driving a large bus along what is sometimes only a country road.
This is Bruce Flanagan, a Sheep Shearer from Northern Victoria. When compared to the police officers, Bruce may seem to have an easier job, but instead there are difficulties in other areas – not the least, evil sheep with glowing eyes and pointed teeth!
Indeed, the sheep themselves can be an issue. The weight of the typical sheep is at the higher end of the safe lifting load, and with no harness to assist, they work could lead to long-term injuries. As well as this, the lack of restraints may cause the sheep to try and run away, perhaps kicking Bruce in the process, or causing him to drop his shearers and cut himself.
Fortunately, none of this has yet happened – he says he seems to "have a way with the sheep."
The Darwin Awards. The Evolution Revolution 2012. The Darwin Awards declares evolution to be the new revolution. With intelligence MIA and presumed dead, the impending extinction of Homo sapiens sapiens, the human race, seems assured.
Lachlan James's insight:
This people haven't heard of Occupational Health & Safety… ;)
An interesting report showing the effects of doing the same thing safely, monotonously, thousands of times that can lead to a fatal incident occurring, this time in the United Kingdom.
Quite why the Guard of this train allowed it to depart when a passenger was leaning against the vehicle is beyond me. And the way that he couldn't stop the train immediately is also a concern from a Health & Safety point of view. The design of the Guard's door (unable to look out along the length of the train as it depart the platform) and procedures (Guard's Door must be closed before giving the "Right Away" to the driver) were also contributory. A combination of bad practise on the part of the Guard; poor rules by the rule makers (Network Rail) and poor design of the carriages from ~30 years earlier lead to this tragedy.
The 10-year anniversary of the Madrid bombings has just passed. Four peak-hour commuter trains were affected, killing 191 & injuring an estimated 1,800 others. Initially a renegade Spanish group, ETA, was blamed, before al-Qaeda came forward and accepted responsibility. Politically, the fallout was immense – the incorrect apportion of blame was one of the reasons that the ruling party at the time was voted out.
From an OH&S point of view, there is not a lot that can be done to protect individuals commuting. The only way that these explosions could be detected could be the installation of X-Ray machines at all stations; hardly an ideal proposition given the number of people who use trains in peak hours! Perhaps then, we need to look at design changes, to contain & absorb the blast to individual carriages; but given the relative scarcity of these incidents, it may not be worth the financial outlay.
Do we therefore need to accept this as a ridiculously low risk?
Philly.com US Nuclear Agency Hid Concerns, Hailed Safety Record as Fukushima Melted NBCNews.com In the tense days after a powerful earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan on March 11, 2011, staff at the U.S.
Lachlan James's insight:
Well, this is concerning. Older folk may remember Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. People of my age, those who weren't alive to bear witness to those disasters, instead came to associate "Fukushima" the same way.
Assuming all policies and procedures are followed correctly; there are no freak weather events - acts of god, if you will - and there are fail safe mechanisms in place to mitigate, if not eliminate, the chances of an event "blowing up in your face" (perhaps a bad choice of words!).
You would hope that, with something as dangerous as a Nuclear Power Plant, there would be no more cover ups - though perhaps not, so as to not instil feelings of fear among the populace. In any event, the question was asked "What if there was an earthquake &/or Tsunami here?"
This article shows that people attempted to cover-up, or downplay, the significance of one of these events. Obviously a big problem. Perhaps American power plants aren't ready for a disaster - problematic with at least one power plant built along the unpredictable San Andreas fault line in Southern California.
Evening Standard Woman 'dragged along Tube platform' after scarf gets caught in Piccadilly line ...
Lachlan James's insight:
One of the big issues with modern transport networks is items getting caught in the doors of trains; trams and busses, with an inability to remove the item before the vehicle departs. Fortunately, the woman involved in this incident on the London Underground was able to be released from her scarf, but it remained stuck and continued to the next station with the train.
A member of platform staff (Person in Charge of Platform, PICOP) appeared to have cleared the departure with a Baton, indicating to the driver that platform work is complete and the train is ready to depart at your leisure. The victim then abruptly stopped after the doors started closing, but the momentum moved her scarf into the doors, trapping it. With no sensitive edge on the 1972 stock on the London Underground, and with no way of the PICOP indicating to the driver that there was an incident, the train departed.
From an OH&S point of view, we perhaps need to educate train staff to look back along the train after the doors have been closed to ensure that there is no obstructions; create a way in which the PICOP can communicate to the driver that there is an issue; and continue to attempt enforcing the "Stand Clear, Doors Closing" rule.
Another accident report I await reading with eager anticipation! (:
This website provides some examples of Risk Matrices that Chris can use when identifying the severity of hazards. This shows the likelihood of an incident to occur and the consequences of an incident occurring, before then showing how urgent a fix is considered to be. This can be particularly useful when attempting to fill out an Incident or Defect Report; for Chris currently has no way of quantitatively demonstrating issues in his workplace.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the significant OH&S issues when volunteering at Puffing Billy is Heat stress and heat-related illness. Unless a day of Total Fire Ban is declared, all locomotive crews operate on a heritage coal-fired steam locomotive. Heat stress, combined with the already-discussed fatigue, is an obvious safety issue that has lead to crews simply passing out on the locomotive.
This article, from Victoria's Better Health Channel, shows some simple ways that Heat Stress can be overcome, as well as the symptoms. Locomotive Crews are encouraged to drink water frequently throughout their shift; park their engines under the shade when at a station; and not over-exhert themselves.
In the last of my Quests, we look here at Chris Tasker, the younger volunteer driver at Puffing Billy. Whilst on the railway, there are a number of OH&S issues, first and foremost being the numerous hot surfaces. There are few controls that can be touched without burning yourself, when allowing passengers to look in the cabin, he says that "If it's shiny, it's hot. If it's not shiny, it's hot. Don't touch anything."
Other issues include fatigue (10-12 hour days, voluntarily, are not unheard of); exposure to the elements (especially in the event of a failure, where he has to walk along the train); working with pressurised steam at 180PSI (~12.5 bar); and colliding with objects (such as cars at crossings or objects that could cause damage to the locomotive).
Despite these hazards, Chris enjoys working as a driver at Puffing Billy, and will continue to do so for many years to come.
This is Ronaldo Enzo, who, in July of 2012 took a group of us on a tour of Venice through it's famous canals. He is a fifth-generation Gondolier, and does it in part for the money, but mostly because he enjoys it.
Ronaldo tries to stay away from the busy Grand Canal, as there is a significant amount of traffic around here including motorboats. The growing number of other traffic in the canals also seems to phase him, particularly when many of the newer gondoliers do not have the degree of skill that he does.
He notes that a number of tight corners now have curved mirrors on them, so that gondoliers can see around the corner, thereby lessening the chance of a collision between two Gondolas occurring. I asked about the practise of standing on the very end of the Gondola, without any kind of restraint. This did not seem to phase him – he's been doing it this way for several years; nobody else has a harness; and the waters are calm enough to not need to worry about it.
A photo I took of my younger brother (far left) with two police officers (the ones in the blue!) whilst on a "City Experience" with High School. These two officers said that, being based at the Flinders Street Station complex in Melbourne, they see a number of OH&S issues. Whilst not expecting to see anything extremely dangerous during their patrol on this overcast Melbourne day, there are issues they come across regularly. These include abusive train passengers – normally inebriated – who have just missed the last train home; or telling the homeless to "move along." Sometimes they attempt to break up fights, and will use Capsicum Spray; very effective in subduing the offenders, but it may also blow back into their face and cause them discomfort as well.
The Driver Reminder Appliance is a tool used in the United Kingdom to prevent any signal being passed at danger (SPAD). This is a common problem throughout Australia; some are permissible, and some are not. This prevents drivers from starting against a signal at stop, or reminds them that the next signal is at stop (if stopping after passing a caution signal).
Used on all passenger trains, and many freight trains, in the United Kingdom, but nothing similar in Australia. Perhaps one way of looking at reducing the chances of a SPAD, which can lead to a collision/incident.
High-visibility clothing does not deter drivers from dangerously overtaking cyclists on shared roadways, new research has found.
Lachlan James's insight:
Interesting article from November 2013 about the usefulness of High-Visibility Clothing. Personally, I am against High-Vis clothing; I instead feel that lights on the vehicles will be more useful in ensuring individuals are seen. If everyone wears a High-Visibility vest/jacket/pants etc., then they will blend in to the background.
High vis clothing does not stop accidents. Continual observance of those around you stops accidents. I almost think that people believe that if you wear high-vis, you won't get hurt. It does nothing to prevent injury or death in and of itself that contrasting clothing or flashing lights doesn't do.
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Lachlan James's insight:
This video shows the USA's National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)'s Most Wanted List for 2014. Created in 1990, the Most Wanted List highlights areas of transport where safety elements are lacking, or encourages an increased level of dialogue between members of the community and transport officials. This list is issued annually, and often has changes from year-to-year, to highlight changes in attitude or safety regulations in the preceding 12 months.
Anything that can be done to improve the safety of any form of transport ought be applauded. Interesting to note some of these safety issues could also be discussed in great depth here, in Australia. These include Eliminate Distraction in Transportation (such as mobile phones); Eliminate Substance-Impaired Driving (Alcohol and illicit drugs) and the implementation of Positive Train Control (An active system that stops the train if the driver does not respond to a red signal or speed restriction).
Shunting on a live railway is an OH&S risk that I take every time I volunteer at Puffing Billy. One of the very real risks is that an injury can occur if extreme care is not taken, and in the worst cases can lead to a fatality.
Sadly, this occurred on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway in the United Kingdom, operating between Pickering, Grosmont and Whitby in northern England. This is the world's busiest tourist railway, carrying some 350,000 passengers each year.
Well worth a read, and is a constant reminder to myself and my fellow volunteers that we partake in a dangerous (but thoroughly enjoyable!) hobby.
It's a sad day that an aeroplane is lost; particularly one that is carrying so many people. Having travelled on a Boeing 777 very similar to this (with Emirates Airline in 2012), it sort of hits home when an aircraft like this is involved in a significant incident.
It is extremely uncommon to simply lose an aircraft – I believe the last time this happened was Air France 447, which disappeared over the Atlantic. This was due to pilot error, but the cause of MH370's disappearance remains a mystery, with terrorism not being ruled out.
Perhaps there was nothing that could be done to stop this incident occurring. However, from an OH&S point of view, flying remains one of the safest – if not, the safest – form of mass transport out there. At any given moment, 300,000 people are airborne (not through use of trampolines!).
I hope the cause is discovered quickly to bring closure to the families involved in this accident, and so that future disasters like this do not occur.
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