Keeping track workers safe: a socio-technical analysis of emerging systems and technology

Track maintenance work is one of the most hazardous jobs in the rail industry. Track workers are in danger of being fatally injured by rail traffic either on the track they are working on or on adjacent tracks. The rail industry has developed many safe working procedures and protection systems to minimise the risk. The Australian rail industry is now trialling new technology that automatically warns the track workers of approaching trains. These technologies may be added to or ultimately replace the current safe working procedures. As there are different products and technologies available for track worker protection it is not clear which technology is best for the Australian rail environment. The Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Rail Innovation project ‘R3.120-Track Worker Protection Technology’ aims to identify and compare systems that improve protection for track workers. Commercially available systems use different types of technologies and have different safety integrity levels. The effectiveness of a safety system is not only dependent on the technology but also the track workers who operate and are protected by the system. Short-term trials may not highlight all issues across the systems’ life cycle so to analyse these socio-technical systems in a relatively short time period a specifically adapted hazard and operability (HAZOP) study is being undertaken. The HAZOP study evaluates both the technical and human factor aspects of the system utilising an expert team. Initially one of the commercially available track worker protection systems was selected as the base for the HAZOP and other track worker protection systems will be analysed based on the issues identified with the initial system. This paper discusses the ‘Track Worker Protection Technology’ project, the track worker protection technology that is available and the adapted HAZOP used to analyse a track worker safety system as a socio-technical system.


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  • Accession Number: 01493602
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Sep 16 2013 12:07PM