Contractor Management In The Railway Industry
Why is effective contractor management vital in the railway industry?
Effective contractor management is essential to safety in the Railway Industry, because it is a high risk sector. Without proper contractor management which takes into account safety, risk awareness and ongoing training, businesses can put their people at risk.
Both employee and contractor are responsible for Work Health Safety (WHS) within the Railway Industry. Contractors have a duty as workers, and must take reasonable care of their own health and safety.
However, as an employer it is also vital that you take responsibility for aspects of WHS. Both parties must come together to assess risks, and ensure that due diligence is done to minimise the likelihood of those risks.
This is a key strength of a contractor management system – it can help businesses monitor contractors and ensure that legal and ethical obligations are met.
We’re unpacking how contractor management should be performed in the Railway Industry to improve safety and compliance.
The Railway Industry poses additional hazards
The first thing to note is that the Railway industry is unique. It poses unique hazards and risks that contractors must be made aware of.
Some of the additional hazards that are present in the Railway Industry are:
- Falling from heights
- Exposure to toxic chemicals
- Dangers of trips and slips
- Hazard working with high voltage
- Hazard working with fast moving trains
- Biological hazards (COVID-19 related risk of working on a public railway network)
How can we minimise these risks?
As a business, it is important to collaborate with contractors to minimise hazards. A key way that businesses can keep on top of contractor safety is by using contractor management systems. These online software systems help you keep on top of permits to work, promote elearning modules and get sign off from the contractor on these topics.
A proper contractor management system requires each party to know and handle their responsibilities as required, and an online system helps businesses keep a digital record. In the Railway Industry this is particularly important, as the risks can be unique and may require special training.
For the hazards above, it is likely that training and permits to work will need to be presented before a contractor can start working on the specific job. Businesses must ensure that contractors are fully qualified and must perform due diligence before allowing a contractor to work on a high-risk site.
Contractor management systems enable businesses to keep a handle on contractor movement and work in order to maintain compliance and keep people safe.
Who is responsible for ensuring contractor safety?
Everyone. All parties must work together to make the workplace safe. However, the business will have certain responsibilities which need to be taken into account.
- Have procedures governing the registration, induction, inspection and on site management of contractors
- Have clear procedures on managing hazards, monitoring contractor work and maintaining contractor records.
Meanwhile, the contract supervisor should:
- Know the health and safety risks involved in the performance of the work
- Possess proper training in contractor management
- Ensure implementation of the required risk control measures to maintain safety
- Monitor and manage the communication channel between the company and contractors.
And the contractors themselves need to:
- Comply with business procedures
- Know and meet their responsibilities on the job
- Tell the truth with regards to qualifications, permits and experience
Working in the Railway Industry is high risk
Unfortunately, in Australia in the 5-year period from 2009-2014, there were 812 cases of serious unintentional injury involving a train. This is way too high, and could potentially be mitigated with proper safety procedures.
Safe Railways Australia has suggested that the high profile Railway worker fatalities in recent years has tightened the need for comprehensive safety systems. In a 2020 report, The National Rail Safety Regulator said that:
“The deaths of three rail safety workers in the past year…were felt across the Australian rail industry and indeed the broader community. They are tragic reminders of why the national regulator will continue to demand absolute vigilance from rail transport operators in the management of safety risks”.
In line with this report, we should not forget that the Railway Industry is high risk, and whether you are a contractor or an employer, it is vital to remain diligent.
This may mean you need to introduce regular safety audits, free contractor training and safety management systems that are more comprehensive.