Probe into rail worker’s death on Lincoln line concluded

An investigation into the death of a Network Rail worker on the Saxilby line into Lincoln has been concluded by the Rail Accident Investigation (RAIB).

As previously reported, Scott Dobson (26) from Doncaster was struck by a passenger train near Sykes Lane, about half a mile from the Lincoln side of Saxilby station on December 4, 2012.

He had been working for a company called SkyBlue on the tracks just outside of Saxilby on behalf of Network Rail, and was the site’s Controller of Site Safety (COSS).

Scott Dobson had six years experience in the rail industry, and was first hired by SkyBlue in 2006, and qualified to act as a COSS in 2008.

The RAIB has since been investigating the causes surrounding his death, noting a number of safety failings by the contractor, SkyBlue.

The position of the workmen at the scene as the train approached. Diagram: RAIB

The position of the workmen at the scene as the train approached. Diagram: RAIB

RAIB concluded in a report that Dobson had been standing in an unsafe area while working as the train approached, and stepping back into the path of the oncoming train.

This may have been avoided if the he had implemented a Safe System Of Work (SSOW) for the task at hand, the report found.

It also found Dobson was distracted by the noise, cold conditions and work being undertaken on the line, perhaps even getting involved in the work, and did not see or hear the approaching train.

However, none of the other staff contracted by SkyBlue challenged the absence of the SSOW, the COSS, lack of briefing by the COSS to the supervisor, or working within an unsafe area.

It also concluded Dobson had not been subject to an effective formal performance review by SkyBlue that had hired him for COSS duties for the work and on other occasions.

Additionally, SkyBlue did not have a process to ensure all incidents or accidents affecting people it had hired are reported and recorded, and that the necessary follow up actions had been completed, and a lack of clarity within SkyBlue as to who was responsible for managing the follow-up of two near-miss incidents involving the same COSS previously, followed by no action taken by Network Rail.

SkyBlue also had no effective performance review regime for managing the competence of people it hired for work on Network Rail infrastructure at the time.

Scene of the accident. Photo: RAIB

Scene of the accident. Photo: RAIB

RAIB sent a number of recommendations to Network Rail and SkyBlue’s parent company to consider.

Since, both companies have made steps to improve their communications and monitoring of staff performance, training programmes for supervisors, safety procedures and risk assessment process, and documenting incidents clearly.

Network Rail has been given a recommendation to better control the risk arising from the use of agency staff in safety leadership roles.

The RMT union General Secretary Bob Crow believes the investigation highlights the issues line workers face while on jobs.

He said: “The RAIB report into this appalling tragedy shines the spotlight on the dangers inherent in the current working environment of track workers on Britain’s railways.

“Those ever present dangers are compounded by the use of contractors and agencies and the growth of zero hours contacts and casualisation in this safety critical environment.

“In this case the victim of this tragedy was on the books of SkyBlue, and several steps away from the actual organisation responsible for rail infrastructure, Network Rail.

“That chaotic approach has to end with Network Rail taking over these contracted staff under central control on decent pay and conditions.

“The report also exposes the culture on our railways where cuts have led to impossible workloads and pressure of work within a management system that allows workers’ on the railway without a safe system of operation being managed and maintained at all times.

“That culture has to change and that means calling a halt on subbing out and casualisation.”