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One of the Most Dangerous Jobs in the Developed World – Working On The Rail Tracks
Posted by David Cant on May 17, 2012

There is no doubt that improvements in health and safety legislation has reduced workplace deaths significantly over the last century. There are now very few truly dangerous jobs in developed countries, however, every year people are killed or seriously injured while at work

Rail Workers

Amongst the most dangerous jobs in the world are rail and road workers. While there have been improvements in health and safety in recent years, tragic accidents do still occur on the railway lines.

Every year there are news reports of workers being struck by trains, maintenance cars or electrocuted while working on the tracks.

Red Zones – Danger on the Tracks

Rail workers are expected to work in “red zones”, which are areas of the railway which are in operation. It is a very dangerous environment for a worker, where being hit by a train and electrocution are the two biggest dangers.

Many rail workers today are contractors who perform relatively quick but specific tasks on the tracks, such as welders and electricians. Because of this many workers have developed a personal sense of safety while on the tracks.

There was a tragic case in 2007 when a welder was struck by a train at the Riscbombe Junction in Berkshire. Due to the low visibility while wearing a welding mask and the intense noise the welder could not hear the train approaching. This is one of the most common causes of employee deaths on railroad tracks – the workers just do not see the train coming.

One simple solution for such accidents is to have someone working alongside the welder who is on constant look out. However, everyone needs to understand the risks of working on railroads and how to reduce those risks.

Personal Track Safety in the UK

In recent years new legislation has been put in place in the UK. Rail workers, specifically track maintenance operatives, now need to carry a PTS Card. PTS Cards are issued when a rail worker has completed their Personal Track Safety training.

Workers need to pass Railtrack’s Medical and Drug & Alcohol test before they are eligible to attend the PTS course. The medical test checks sight, hearing, blood pressure and general health. Workers are also tested for drug and alcohol abuse.

The courses teach workers about the various hazards found on the rail tracks. When first awarded PTS cards have a green square printed on them to show the Controller of Site Safety (COSS) that the worker is newly trained, so extra supervision is still required.

This is now compulsory for anyone working on or near railway lines in the UK. It is usually awarded after completing a 2 day course.

This simple change in the law has helped improve safety on the railway tracks in the UK. While some people feel that health and safety regulations are too strict, you really cannot be too careful when walking and working on railway lines.

American Rail Track Safety

In the USA a similar form of training is taken by workers. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has produced a comprehensive course that covers all areas of safety. FRA are partnered with the The American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA)

Health and safety in the workplace is now taken very seriously in developed nations. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for many emerging economies where deaths in the workplace continue to be very high.

Guest Post was written by Jamie Benham, a training advisor for UK website. Courses Plus.


David Cant is a Chartered Safety and Health Practitioner with a brain you can pick. Fluent in practical advice. He has a wealth of Industry experience and is the Director of life at Veritas Consulting.

You can find him on - Twitter and Facebook also Linkedin

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