Underrated Dangers of Working on the Rails

Slips, Trips and Falls The Underrated Dangers of Working on the Rails-min

The rail industry has always been an integral part of the transportation network, providing an efficient and reliable means of moving people and goods across vast distances. However, with the benefits of rail transportation come inherent risks. The rail industry is not immune to accidents, and it is essential to identify and nullify the most dangerous hazards to ensure the safety of passengers, employees, and the public. This blog will uncover the most pressing risks in the rail industry while investigating how the NEBOSH General Certificate for Occupational Health and Safety can nullify and reverse hazards. So let’s get into the risks and hazards of working on the rails!

Key Takeaways 

  • Hazards of Working on the Rails:
    • Moving trains, vehicles, and equipment
    • High voltage electricity
    • Loud noise
    • Extreme weather conditions
    • Hazardous materials
    • Ergonomic risks
  • Dangers of Railway Construction:
    • Train Collisions
    • Derailments
    • Level/Grade Crossings and Trespass
    • Transport of Dangerous Goods
    • Construction Safety Performance
  • Additional Risks:
    • Derailments: Caused by track defects, human error, or equipment failure, with catastrophic consequences.
    • Collisions: Occur between trains, vehicles, pedestrians, or objects, requiring safety technologies like positive train control.
    • Trespassers: Pose risks through unauthorized access, addressed by public education campaigns and barriers.
    • Fires: Result from equipment failure, electrical malfunctions, or collisions, demanding advanced fire suppression systems.
    • Hazardous Materials: Require safety technologies, tank car upgrades, and employee training to prevent accidents.
  • NEBOSH General Certificate Benefits for Rail Industry:
    • Compliance with legal requirements.
    • Improved risk management.
    • Increased awareness of health and safety.
    • Improved reputation.
    • Reduced costs.

What are the hazards of working on the rails?

– Working on the railroads can expose workers to various hazards, such as:
– Moving trains, vehicles and equipment that can cause collisions, derailments or entrapments
– High voltage electricity from overhead wires, substations or third rails that can cause electrocution or burns
– Loud noise from engines, horns or brakes that can damage hearing or cause stress
– Extreme weather conditions, such as heat, cold, rain or snow that can affect visibility, comfort or health
– Hazardous materials, such as fuels, oils, solvents or asbestos that can cause fire, explosion or poisoning
– Ergonomic risks, such as lifting, bending or repetitive motions that can cause musculoskeletal disorders or injuries

What are the dangers of railway construction when working on the rails?

  • Train Collisions. Risks arise from human or technical errors in signalling, routing, driving, or braking systems, leading to injuries, fatalities, and property damage.
  • Derailments. Poor track conditions, defective switches, and other factors can cause derailments, resulting in injuries, fatalities, and property damage.
  • Level/Grade Crossings and Trespass. Risks involve collisions between trains and road users or pedestrians at crossings, leading to injuries, fatalities, and property damage.
  • Transport of Dangerous Goods. Special precautions are needed for substances with explosion, fire, toxicity risks during rail transport, with potential harm to people, property, and the environment.
  • Construction Safety Performance. Risks during construction include working at height, near electricity, with heavy machinery, in confined spaces, posing threats to workers’ health and safety and public safety.



Derailments are fairly common in the rail industry and are caused by various factors, including track defects, human error, and equipment failure. The consequences of a derailment can be catastrophic, resulting in injuries, fatalities, and significant property damage. To nullify this hazard, rail companies must consistently invest in regular track inspections and maintenance to identify and repair defects before they become problematic. Additionally, employee training and education programs can help prevent human error, and equipment should undergo regular maintenance and upgrades to ensure optimal performance. Even if staff are accredited or certified in certain areas, it is always helpful to refresh their understanding, keep them informed on the latest industry regulations, and reinforce complex safety philosophies and practices.



Collisions can occur between trains, a train and a vehicle or pedestrian, or between a train and an object on the track. These accidents can be caused by human error, equipment failure, and poor visibility. To reduce the likelihood of collisions with this hazard, rail companies must invest in advanced safety technologies such as positive train control (PTC), which uses GPS and other systems to automatically stop a train before it reaches a collision point. Additionally, rail companies should implement strict safety protocols to ensure that employees are trained on proper procedures and that equipment is regularly maintained.


Trespassers can cause accidents by walking on tracks or crossing at unauthorised locations. This hazard can be restricted through public education campaigns that inform people about the dangers of trespassing on rail property. Additionally, rail companies can invest in fencing and other barriers to prevent unauthorised access to tracks.

Fires When Working on the Rails

Various factors, including equipment failure, electrical malfunctions, and collisions, cause fires. The consequences of a fire can be severe, resulting in injuries, fatalities, and significant property damage. Rail companies must invest in advanced fire suppression systems to reduce the probability of fires and ensure employees are trained on proper fire safety procedures.

What Is Important for Preventing Risks When Working on the Rails?

– Wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, helmets, and high-visibility clothing
– Follow the safety rules and procedures for working on or near the rails, such as using lookout protection, flagging, and communication devices
– Avoid distractions and stay alert to the surroundings, especially the movement and sound of trains
– Report any hazards, defects, or incidents to the supervisor or the rail operator
– Attend regular training and refreshers on rail safety and emergency response

Hazardous Materials

Hazardous materials such as chemicals and petroleum products are transported by rail across the country daily. Accidents involving hazardous materials can have severe consequences, including environmental damage, injuries, fatalities, and property damage. Rail companies must invest in advanced safety technologies such as tank car upgrades and braking systems to nullify this hazard. Additionally, employees must undergo specialised training on handling hazardous materials and responding to emergencies involving these materials.

The NEBOSH General Certificate is especially relevant to the rail industry because it addresses broader and more niche elements of health and safety, specifically valuable for combating the risks prevalent in the industry. The NEBOSH General Certificate will ensure the rail industries benefits from;

Compliance with legal requirements for hazards of working on the rails

The rail industry is subject to various health and safety legislation, including the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and the Railway Safety Regulations 1999. The NEBOSH General Certificate thoroughly articulates these legal requirements, guaranteeing that rail industry professionals comply with relevant legislation.

Improved risk management

The rail industry is exposed to various risks, from slips, trips, and falls to more severe incidents such as train collisions. The NEBOSH General Certificate provides individuals with the knowledge and skills to proactively identify potential hazards and implement effective control measures to prevent accidents and injuries. This leads to improved risk management across the entire rail industry. Not only that, but it also helps to embed a progressive safety culture in the workplace.

Increased awareness of health and safety when working on the rails

The NEBOSH General Certificate raises awareness of health and safety issues among rail industry professionals. It highlights the importance of creating a workplace safety culture and encourages individuals to take ownership of their safety and that of their colleagues.

Improved reputation

The rail industry operates in a highly competitive environment where reputation is critical. By investing in health and safety training such as the NEBOSH General Certificate, rail companies can demonstrate their commitment to safety, enhancing their reputation among customers, investors, and other stakeholders.

Reduced costs

Accidents and injuries can be costly for rail companies, both in terms of financial costs and damage to reputation. By implementing effective health and safety management systems, rail companies can reduce the likelihood of accidents occurring. Hence, leading to reduced costs associated with compensation claims, legal fees, and lost productivity.

NEBOSH General Certificate for Occupational Health and Safety

The NEBOSH General Certificate is a widely recognised qualification in the field of health and safety. It provides a comprehensive understanding of occupational health and safety principles and practices.

The course covers various workplace health and safety topics, including risk assessment, hazard identification, control measures, legal requirements, and best practices. The certificate is suitable for individuals from various industries and job roles who have responsibilities related to health and safety within their workplace.

The course covers areas relevant to the rail industry and working on the rails, such as:

  • Health and Safety Management Systems
  • Identification and Control of Workplace Hazards
  • Fire Safety
  • Work Equipment and Machinery Safety
  • Electrical Safety
  • Construction and Workplace Safety
  • Chemical and Biological Health Hazards
  • Ergonomics and Physical Health Hazards
  • Occupational Health and Welfare

The course promises to gift a transformational blueprint of effective workplace health and safety practices, helping protect lives and organisations reach their potential. The NEBOSH General Certificate offers a comprehensive understanding of the necessary mindset required to lead safely in the workplace. Several units educate on leadership traits and advise on the health and safety intangibles. That can be the difference between saving or not saving lives.

  1. The course is split into eleven elements that focus on specific workplace health and safety areas. It is structured as follows:
  2. Why we should manage workplace health and safety
  3. How health and safety management systems work and what they look like
  4. Managing risk – understanding people and processes
  5. Health and safety monitoring and measuring
  6. Physical and psychological health
  7. Musculoskeletal health
  8. Chemical and biological agents
  9. General workplace issues
  10. Work equipment
  11. Fire
  12. Electricity

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