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Rail worker killed by a train was using 'unsafe' lookout system linked to other deaths



A railway worker was struck and killed by a train travelling at 76mph while using an unsafe system of lookouts linked to two other deaths, a report found. Tyler Byrne, 30, became "distracted" while working on the track and was hit by the passenger train, investigators said today.


He may have not noticed his dangerous position as he showed a colleague how to inspect the line near Surbiton station, south west London, according to the findings released today. Investigators said trains were still running during the planned inspection using single lookouts to spot advancing trains - a system that should have been scrapped but was still being widely used when the accident happened, according to a new report by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB).


The South Western Railway train driver, who had 18 years' experience, sounded a warning horn twice as the vehicle approached Mr Byrne, but no one could remember hearing it, the report added. Bosses at the depot where he worked were said to have known about two previous fatalities in Wales but still used the outdated system of unassisted lookouts to spot advancing trains, the RAIB said.


Mr Byrne was walking in a crossover line between two through lines near the station and was one of four track workers involved in inspections at the site at around 11.30am last February 9. The track worker was unaware of his "position relative to the train" and "lost awareness of his position", likely while teaching a junior colleague, the watchdog found.


The report published today stated: "He was unaware of his position probably because he had become distracted, either due to teaching an assistant or by undertaking an actual inspection. Once distracted, it is likely his deviation towards the line on which the train was travelling was exacerbated by the layout of the rails at the junction.


"The train driver sounded the train’s warning horn twice during the train’s approach but neither of the other two people working with the controller of site safety recalled hearing it."


Using lookouts was "the least safe type of system of work" that could be implemented when working on track, the RAIB said. But the ongoing use of the tactic had not been challenged in the years before the accident, investigators found.


Network Rail planned to get rid of unassisted lookouts but changes had not yet been implemented, the report added. It read: "The inspection was planned to be completed while trains were running with a safe system of work in place that used unassisted lookouts.

"This was the least safe type of system of work which could be implemented when working on track, but its ongoing use had not been challenged in the years before the accident. Network Rail had a programme in place to eliminate unassisted lookout working but this had not yet led to changes to the safe systems of work at the depot where the controller of site safety worked.

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