A rail infrastructure and engineering company, carrying out modifications to the track layout during the reconstruction of Market Harborough station, has been fined £600,000 for health and safety breaches.
Rail regulator, the Office of Rail and Road, brought the prosecution under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 for failure to ensure lifting operations involving lifting equipment were properly planned, supervised, and carried out in a safe manner.
Amey Rail Limited pleaded guilty to the offence. The company was sentenced at Leicester Magistrates’ Court.
ORR’s prosecution follows an investigation into an incident in the early hours of 21 October 2018 outside Market Harborough station on the Midland Main Line, when a road-rail excavator vehicle overturned during an unsafe lift.
The vehicle’s operator had to be pulled from the cab, and fortunately, despite several other rail workers being in the area of the overturning, no one was seriously injured.
ORR’s investigation into the incident found there was a late change in the equipment being used on the night of the accident, which had inadequate lifting capacity for the planned works.
To overcome this, it was established that the length of the track to be lifted would need to be reduced from 30 to 20 feet.
This critical change was not managed or communicated correctly and resulted in the track panels being cut to the original length of 30 feet – exceeding the capacity for the excavators to be used.
When lifting started, the on-board safety systems on the excavators showed that the weight being lifted was exceeding what excavators could safely handle. ORR found in its investigation that these warnings were ignored, and the safety systems were disabled to enable the work to continue.
ORR also found that radio-based communication system between the operators and the lifting supervisor developed a defect. Despite replacement equipment being available on site, work continued with the inadequate communications equipment.
These failures led to one of the two excavators becoming overloaded beyond its capacity and toppling onto its side, trapping a worker in the cab, when undertaking a tandem lift of a track panel later established to be 39ft long.
Several members of the lifting team and others in the nearby vicinity kicked through the toughened glass windscreen to drag a worker clear of the cab.
ORR’s HM Chief Inspector of Railways Ian Prosser CBE, said: “The risks of failing to comply with the lifting regulations are well known throughout the industry and clearly foreseeable. In this case basic errors were made and it is by sheer luck that no one was seriously hurt.