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Safety advice for manual handling risk assessments updated

© Network Rail. Steel-reinforced, pre-cast, concrete cable troughing (left). Polymer troughing for protecting and containing cables at the lineside (right).

A reporter raised concerns about manual handling risk assessments for troughing that had not been communicated to contractors. The reporter commented that Network Rail released safety bulletin NRRA/15/02 earlier this year following a troughing incident. It stated amended risk assessments, for troughing, would be conducted and communicated to all contractors.

However, the reporter stated that these risk assessments have not been shared. The reporter was concerned that staff carrying out troughing duties could be potentially working unsafely, which could lead to injuries.

The reporter asked if Network Rail could:

  • Clarify whether the troughing risk assessments have been carried out?
  • Communicate these risk assessments to all contractors?

Network Rail's response
Network Rail (NR) would like to thank the reporter for bringing this to our attention. Both NR and the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) sponsored detailed manual handling risk assessments of the operations involved in installing troughing.

The main recommendations were to prohibit manual handling for the heaviest troughing and to encourage the adoption of lighter weight materials. Level 2 Standard for the Specification for Cable Troughing NR/L2/TEL/00013 issue 4, June 2016, has been amended.

This will allow lighter weight products to be offered that will present a reduced risk of musculoskeletal injury when manually handled (available to all contractors). As part of improving manual handling of troughing, NR and its suppliers have been working together to produce half-weight, half-length concrete troughs and concrete lids.

A table of weights of common products has been produced that identifies the inherent manual handling risks, based on the weight and frequency of lifting. This prohibits the manual handling of the heaviest products.

NR does not provide its risk assessments to contractors. The contractors have a legal duty to produce their own suitable and sufficient assessment of risks. Information required to complete these assessments can be obtained from the product approval certificates which are available to all contractors.

Actions taken as a result of this report:
NR will publish updated Safety Advice NRRA/15/02, ensuring that the advice includes where the key information is located to allow the contractors to carry out a suitable and sufficient manual handling risk assessment. NR aims to have this published by the end of April 2018.