Wheels On Steel

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First up thanks to GR for posting the cited text below into QRIG. This gives me an opportunity to raise a topic that has been bugging me lately.

What I am about to post are purely perceptions, and I open the discussion to those who are closer to the issues to correct me.

dateline= Wrote:QR has a duty of care to provide a safe workplace. However it is quite impossible to provide absolute safety in every possible circumstance.

Unfortunately, recent experience with risk management process with QR indicates that indeed QR are expected to Ensure safety. This is straight out of the Workplace health and safety rule book, and has crept into QR's latest Risk Management process. Thankfully, through the efforts of the Queensland Regulator, tourist and heritage railways can mitigate risk down to ALARP (as low as reasonably practicable). This makes it interesting when an operator has to interface with the QR system.

Anyway because safety has to be ensured, it is therefore prescribed that QR provide absolute safety in every possible circumstance (GR's words). To my way of thinking, the only way this can be achieved is by shutting down operations and not running trains.

This is where QR's zero harm campaign comes into play. Make no mistake, something had to be done here. A senior manager in QR network (over a few beers) described some appalling statistics in relation to QR's propensity to hurting people at work.

However, good intentions can have bad results.

dateline= Wrote:P936 was delayed at Proserpine due to a single ballast wagon being derailed
some 24 hours before. I know it was approx 12 hours from when the derailment
occurred and when the breakdown gang arrived on scene. I don't know why it
took a further 24 odd hours to reopen the track. A mystery considering the
wagon derailed on the first ballast run for the job. The northbound DTT was
held at Mackay - along with a whole raft of other north bound trains.

Peter wasn't the only one to query this. Certainly there were other operators seething about this 'delay'. The delay came about because the breakdown crew had reached their 'fatigue hours' and had to be rested. This left the main North coast line closed for an extended period of time. Another observation about this comes from Railbastard:

dateline= Wrote:Tell Me what fucking state doesn't move heaven and earth to open a Mainline thats closed due to a simple derailment.

Seems to be that all initiative is removed from the people on the ground to have a crack and get the job done. Who knows why a second shift wasn't brought in? Is fatigue such an exact science that working an hour or two beyond prescribed limits will ensure an accident? I think fatigue scoring is fine for predicted shifts but when something out of the ordinary happens and needs fixing, you have to have some flexibility to deal with situation and let the managers on the ground monitor the performance of the crews.

This led to freight operators with valuable trains in loops, costing big $, extremely pissed off passengers on mail trains, and a trickle flow on affect to my own company with AMEX'd trains leading to a loss of revenue for services that were not required.

Zero Harm.

On the Sav we had an instance last year when control forgot that we were running a special train, and they allowed the track gang that was out there at the time to park up their machines on the section at completion of days work. By the time they got back back to base, and the error was realised, they were too fatigued to work their machines back to a siding  to clear the line for us. They wanted to help, but were under threat of instant dismissal if they worked into their fatigue no go times. Net result was a 5 hour delay for passengers traveling on a charter trip. It was lucky that they didn't miss a connecting tour on that occasion.

I suspect zero harm and ensure safety has had ill effect on the Gulflander operations at the start of this year.

Due to track damage after the floods out there this year, the first trip (about 6 weeks late into the season) could only get as far as critters camp. At Critters, the unit was turning and derailed 20 meters into the angle. Yes the angle. All services were immediately suspended and the entire line was subject to a risk assessment to ensure safety on the line. Because some of the residual risk scores were higher than 4 (of 12) a higher level manager had to sign off on the assessment. Such level manager does not exist in Normanton. So two weeks after the derailment on an Angle, a bloody siding, the service is still not running. We get the annoyed passengers over on the Sav, but Fatty does a good job calming them down.

Yep, zero harm, ensure safety.

Lets target zero injuries, and yes, lets look for ways to continually improve safety. Lets keep it balanced though. Lets not dismiss passengers or freight customers inconvenience as 'the price for safety' - This just has to be done better. Otherwise, those customers will leave the railways in droves, (accelerate its decline?) and we will find them on our incredibly safe roads in buses or on B Doubles.

Oh, while on the tilt train thingy, can anyone tell me how well a bus's drivers position is engineered to withstand an impact with a truck (or anything) at 60 kph?



While there's a lot of things going into this boiling pot - I'd suspect the fatal accident on the Goonyella line in 2007 could be contributing to this - that incident was put down to fatigue and now there's at least one senior manager on charges for it. Got to be a connection there.

Meanwhile, I'd also be tempted to say the tipping point has probably been reached in senior management where there's insufficient operations experienced officers left to say that what works on a factory floor or on an accountant's desk is not going to work out on the tracks - and separating the interests of the track provider and the train operator is one of those things - the most successful private rail companies in the world are still working in an vertically integrated environment - and I believe they're successful for exactly that reason (and that they're CEOs all started at rail level too).

Bare-bones economy has taken the flexibility out of QR's ability to operate a railway - although, having said that, its interesting to compare how quickly the Grantliegh prang was cleaned up against the GNR derailment in the same month - so perhaps Coal still has enough clout to say how it wants to run trains, pity about all the rest. 

Mick, I like it.  I like it so much I would suggest that if you were to trim it down, and remove any "incriminating" sections, I would throw it at the Cairns Post or Courier Mail.
It would be interesting to see what the CM's reaction would be - they've been riding QR over safety, so I wonder if they would do a backflip and start riding QR for being too "safe."

Thanks John,
I doubt I could slut myself to those insidious publications. However, I do happen to know a few alternative news blogs that are fiercely monitored by news limited, and they just love not having to do any research.

However, if anybody wants to use the words as a basis to follow up Johns suggestion, go for it!
Where do I start to respond to this?

On the whole, I tend to agree with what you are saying but it is not a clear cut or simple as you suggest.

(02-May-2009, 01:00 PM)Mick_L link Wrote:Unfortunately, recent experience with risk management process with QR indicates that indeed QR are expected to Ensure safety. This is straight out of the Workplace health and safety rule book, and has crept into QR's latest Risk Management process.

This is generally correct although just what "ensure safety" means is open to considerable interpretation. Unfortunately, the QR risk management process was determined by "corporate QR" and has caused much concern amongst the people in the businesses who have to implement it. Your recent experience with QR was not long after the rules were changed and the businesses were still trying to work out how to comply with little guidance from those who wrote the rules.

dateline= Wrote:Thankfully, through the efforts of the Queensland Regulator, tourist and heritage railways can mitigate risk down to ALARP (as low as reasonably practicable). This makes it interesting when an operator has to interface with the QR system.

I am puzzled by this statement as it is not up to the rail safety regulator - it is workplace health and safety law. The rail safety regulator was quite happy for QR to work to ALARP until the WH&S people stuck their nose in following an incident. You had better hope that you don't have a rail safety incident that the WH&S inspectors investigate or you may also get told to remove ALARP from your SMS.

dateline= Wrote:Anyway because safety has to be ensured, it is therefore prescribed that QR provide absolute safety in every possible circumstance (GR's words).

This is not correct. QR has a process to follow that identifies and assesses risks and determines controls to manage those risks as required by the WH&S act. You cannot ensure absolute safety.

dateline= Wrote:To my way of thinking, the only way this can be achieved is by shutting down operations and not running trains.

This is where QR's zero harm campaign comes into play. Make no mistake, something had to be done here. A senior manager in QR network (over a few beers) described some appalling statistics in relation to QR's propensity to hurting people at work.

However, good intentions can have bad results.

Yes - when implementation includes the threat of losing your job, managers are going to take the easy way out and stop doing things.

dateline= Wrote:The delay came about because the breakdown crew had reached their 'fatigue hours' and had to be rested.

Seems to be that all initiative is removed from the people on the ground to have a crack and get the job done. Who knows why a second shift wasn't brought in?

Perhaps there wasn't anyone else available.

dateline= Wrote:Is fatigue such an exact science that working an hour or two beyond prescribed limits will ensure an accident? I think fatigue scoring is fine for predicted shifts but when something out of the ordinary happens and needs fixing, you have to have some flexibility to deal with situation and let the managers on the ground monitor the performance of the crews.

..... Because some of the residual risk scores were higher than 4 (of 12) a higher level manager had to sign off on the assessment. Such level manager does not exist in Normanton.

A recent risk assessment we did had to be signed off by the CEO as well as two EGMs and several GMs.

dateline= Wrote:Yep, zero harm, ensure safety.

Lets target zero injuries, and yes, lets look for ways to continually improve safety. Lets keep it balanced though. Lets not dismiss passengers or freight customers inconvenience as 'the price for safety' - This just has to be done better. Otherwise, those customers will leave the railways in droves, (accelerate its decline?) and we will find them on our incredibly safe roads in buses or on B Doubles.

Oh, while on the tilt train thingy, can anyone tell me how well a bus's drivers position is engineered to withstand an impact with a truck (or anything) at 60 kph?

But the bus driver doesn't have several hundred (or several thousand)tonnes behind him and he is more able to take evasive action. What I don't understand is why the CTT was picked on and not the RTT or even suburban EMUs. If the driver's cab was the problem, why was the CTT run back empty to Brisbane after the ban.
dateline= Wrote:
Quote:Thankfully, through the efforts of the Queensland Regulator, tourist and heritage railways can mitigate risk down to ALARP (as low as reasonably practicable). This makes it interesting when an operator has to interface with the QR system.
I am puzzled by this statement as it is not up to the rail safety regulator - it is workplace health and safety law. The rail safety regulator was quite happy for QR to work to ALARP until the WH&S people stuck their nose in following an incident. You had better hope that you don't have a rail safety incident that the WH&S inspectors investigate or you may also get told to remove ALARP from your SMS.

This is more about being an accredited rail operator. To obtain and maintain my accreditation as a rail operator, I must satisfy the regulator that I can manage my risks to an acceptable level. I do not have to provide a case as such to the department of workplace health and safety. It does not absolve the requirement to ensure safety in the workplace, but it keeps a fuzzy grey line between the rail operations and the workplace - and by workplace I mean the physical location of our depot. Once on the network, we work in compliance with the SMS of the track manager, to whom I must also demonstrate satisfactory management of risk, but again, not the department.  Currently the new rail safety act has been delayed because of this point of discussion that is apparently occurring between the Regulator and the Department.

And thanks for clearing up other matters. As I said at the start of this, much of what I say is a perception. This gives those that are close to the issue an opportunity to provide visibility (going forward blah blah corporate buzz phrase)
(02-May-2009, 04:23 PM)Mick_L link Wrote:This is more about being an accredited rail operator. To obtain and maintain my accreditation as a rail operator, I must satisfy the regulator that I can manage my risks to an acceptable level.

As does QR. But it is not the rail safety regulator that is driving this issue.

dateline= Wrote:I do not have to provide a case as such to the department of workplace health and safety. It does not absolve the requirement to ensure safety in the workplace, but it keeps a fuzzy grey line between the rail operations and the workplace - and by workplace I mean the physical location of our depot.

QR thought there was a fuzzy line too - until the WH&S people decided differently.

dateline= Wrote:Once on the network, we work in compliance with the SMS of the track manager, to whom I must also demonstrate satisfactory management of risk, but again, not the department.

That is not strictly correct. When on the network, you still have to work to your SMS, not the track manager's SMS. However, you do have to comply with the interface requirements agreed between you and the track manager. The track manager doesn't have much interest in non-interface issues as that is between you and the rail safety regulator.

dateline= Wrote:Currently the new rail safety act has been delayed because of this point of discussion that is apparently occurring between the Regulator and the Department.

Let us all hope that they get some common sense and resolve this issue soon.

I know you know what I have said above Mike, but I just wanted to clarify it for those not involved in getting accreditation or access.
(02-May-2009, 01:00 PM)Mick_L link Wrote:Seems to be that all initiative is removed from the people on the ground to have a crack and get the job done. Who knows why a second shift wasn't brought in? Is fatigue such an exact science that working an hour or two beyond prescribed limits will ensure an accident? I think fatigue scoring is fine for predicted shifts but when something out of the ordinary happens and needs fixing, you have to have some flexibility to deal with situation and let the managers on the ground monitor the performance of the crews.
Takes me back to a situation I had to deal with at work some years back. Basically a hard disk failure on our mini-computer that put our entire organisation off-line. I worked through much of the night (after starting at normal time in the morning), a very long day. Was I fatigued after my normal shift? Of course I was. Was I even more fatigued by the time I knocked off? Absolutely. Now you say: "but you weren't putting anyone at risk". We'll no, not at work. However I did have to drive home after I knocked off, and at that hour of the morning I did drive far in excess of the posted speed limits, in fact had I been pulled up by the lawman, it would probably have been a case of "Go to jail, go directly to jail, do NOT pass GO, do NOT collect $200" :biggrin

I did what I did to minimise the inconvenience to my employer and fellow employees. That mission was accomplished. No harm was done.
dateline= Wrote:.... has a duty of care to provide a safe workplace ...



I have searched the WHS Regulation 2008 and the WHS Act 1995 and cannot find a reference to "Duty Of Care".

(02-May-2009, 06:43 PM)CNsylvester link Wrote:
Quote:.... has a duty of care to provide a safe workplace ...
I have searched the WHS Regulation 2008 and the WHS Act 1995 and cannot find a reference to "Duty Of Care".

However, the act is full of terms such as "The person in control of a relevant workplace area has an obligation to ensure the relevant workplace area is safe and without risk to health."

Although the term "duty of care" may not be used, the act nevertheless imposes obligations on the employer, as unrealistic as they are.

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