March 2010 in Network Rail and Suppliers
A reporter has raised concerns regarding requirements listed in manuals for S&T staff.
Institute of Railway Signals Engineers (IRSE) Licence - The first issue concerns the requirement for S&T staff to be IRSE licensed, as outlined in the signal maintenance specifications (SMS). These licences must be renewed every five years through an assessment, but the reporter states that these assessments are not available and have not been so for more than a year. This means an increasing number of staff do not have a valid IRSE licence.
Safety belts - The second concern relates to the requirement for S&T staff to wear safety belts and harnesses, as outlined in the "General Instructions issued to S&T staff‟. The books state that a safety belt must be used when climbing signal posts or telegraph posts, but the reporter states that no safety belts are provided in his depot.
As with the above concern, the reporter would like to know whether this requirement is mandatory. If yes, could all depots supply them to S&T staff? If safety belts are not mandatory, could this requirement be removed from the book?
Independent Signal Maintenance Testing Handbook (SMTH) inspection - The final issue also regards the SMS, which states that a person must be competent and authorised to work on specific equipment. Due to a lack of staff, the reporter is often paired with a person with no authority or competency apart from lookout and PTS, which means that the reporter has to carry out any repairs or replacement of equipment himself.
By doing the work, the reporter cannot inspect the job independently as required by the SMTH. S&T staff are increasingly working in teams of two. The reporter would ideally like to see teams consist of at least three people, two of whom should be authorised and competent.
Network Rail would like to thank the reporter for raising their concerns.
Network Rail is committed to IRSE licensing to demonstrate competence in addition to its own assessment in the line (AitL) process. In order to reduce duplication between the two systems we have been working closely with the IRSE to agree a way of using the evidence gathered for AitL as the basis for an IRSE licence. Agreement has been reached and trials are underway to confirm that the new method is both efficient and effective. In the meantime, Network Rail has a temporary non-compliance in place against the requirement in the SMS to demonstrate staff competence by means of AitL only. The S&T Manual will be revised when the trials have been completed.
Safety harnesses are required where the person working at height cannot maintain three points of contact on the ladder or structure whilst undertaking their work or no guard rails or safety barriers/cages are installed at platforms at height. Network Rail are currently reviewing its controls for working at height on signalling equipment and a working at height policy is being drafted for issue in December 2009. Network Rail will review the SMS in line with the new policy to check its requirements have been included, and that requirements are correctly implemented for staff.
The reporter is correct that the SMTH tester should not carry out work they are testing unless the test plan clearly states "independence exempted". Anyone who works on the signal infrastructure has to be competent under the Network Rail AiTL process. Therefore in a two-man team both would need to be competent to undertake corrective and preventive maintenance of the particular asset, however only one would need to hold SMTH competence. This allows one person to locate and diagnose the fault; a second person to affect a repair and then the first to independently test the asset in accordance with the SMTH and the relevant SMS.