June 2008 in Network Rail and Suppliers
A reporter has contacted CIRAS about double-shift working and insufficient number of controllers of site safety (COSS‟s) employed on the Finchley Road and Frognall to West Hampstead project. The reporter believes that COSS‟s are not checking the validity of PTS cards. He understands that COSS‟s are responsible for ensuring PTS cards are valid when workers come onto a site every day and checking the number of hours worked by their gangs so they do not work shifts back-to-back.
In line with the working time directive, workers were scheduled to work six days and take the 7th day as rest day. However, the reporter is aware of some workers working consecutive shifts over a weekend whereby they would work for one agency on one part of the project then work at a different location on another part of the project with a different agency before returning to work for the first agency.
The reporter is concerned about fatigue affecting the ability of workers to work safely. Simple activities like listening to and hearing instructions could be misconstrued as a result of being tired and working too many hours. With heavy machinery in use on the worksite, the reporter is concerned that delayed reactions to instructions are likely to occur if workers are tired. Also, gangs have been working without COSS‟s present, which including walking in pitch black conditions with no lighting. The reporter was part of a five or six member gang in which a COSS was not present for three consecutive days.
He is aware of at least another 15 to 20 people being in a similar situation. The reporter states that although managers were often lineside, walking up and down the track to inspect work, they did not notice that COSS‟s weren‟t present in gangs. The reporter believes the situation was like this because workers were able to sign on for the day and continue working for consecutive days without adequate rest because the administration protocols weren‟t robust.
The reporter suggests that documentation protocols need to be followed by agencies contracted on this project. Stubbarts and possibly also Nuttalls, were contracted to work lineside and in tunnels on the Finchley Road and Frognall to West Hampstead project. Many other contractors were also assigned work on this project.
Could Network Rail investigate both issues highlighted in this report?
It concerns us that these perceived issues were not raised by the operatives on site to any of the site management or the supporting safety officers whose names and numbers were posted in most of the welfare areas on site. Unfortunately the named site was demobilised on 18 November (22 days before we received this report) thus not allowing us to investigate these concerns first hand, however any concerns raised are reviewed and any appropriate lessons learnt will be taken on board.
Fatigue and the management of safety critical workers were considered at the planning stage of the project and in particular, attention was given when putting together rosters. To this end a staff and operatives roster was drawn up each week and resources were called in by name to the site, this included agency personnel as well as employees. This roster clearly identified shift patterns and rest days for each named individual. A rigorous induction (which included raising safety concerns and refusal to work on grounds of safety concerns), briefing and signing in and out procedures were in place and operated at the central site location as was allocation of safety critical staff and PPE.
With regards to the concerns the reporter had about lighting we again have no further evidence to back this up, as throughout the blockade the full length of the tunnel, portals and walking route to both station platforms were lit by a combination of existing lights and an extensive temporary lighting system. This system provided sufficient ambient light to avoid any need for localised task lighting to carry out the works. In the last four nights of the blockade both lighting systems had to be removed, however, after this time we provided lighting for working groups with a combination of static tripod lights and gator mounted floodlights and generator for moving operations.
It remains our goal to act on all safety issues raised at any time during a project‟s life. Our concern following this report is that our "Don‟t Walk By‟ behavioural safety initiative is not being adopted by some operatives and that in this case the operative appears to have felt unable to report his concerns at the time.We intend to address this in future briefings to emphasise even more the open and honest approach to safety we believe is at the core of our initiative.