Work at Heights - Network Rail

Head Office Circular: NP/007/15
Our Ref: HSR/2/6
16th January 2015

The Secretary

Dear Colleague

Work at Heights - Network Rail

Since 2006 RMT Representatives have been trying to force Network Rail to comply with their legal responsibilities to comply with the Work at Height Regulations 2005 with varying degrees of success. However, typically for Network Rail and the way the company manage their safety risks, this programme has seen a number of Project Managers come and go and as a consequence the progress with this work has not been to our satisfaction.

A report of the latest Work at Heights Group is due to be considered by the General Grades Committee next week but, since that meeting, the Scotland Route has issued a Safety Awareness Brief that directly contradicts an instruction issued by the RMT in 2010. This instruction, contained in Head Office Circular: NP/218/10, 2nd December 2010, remains in force and has not been superseded.

NP/218/10 states:

It has been brought to my attention that Network Rail are shortly to commence training on working at heights. Despite strong representation from RMT H+S Reps the new training will allow individuals who are working at height to free climb to 4.5m as long as they are wearing a harness which they will then attach once they arrive at the site they are due to undertake work. It is RMT’s belief that if this training is followed staff will have no protection from falls during the period in which they are free climbing. We further believe that while free climbing, individuals are exposed to the greatest risk of falling from height and suffering serious injury.

RMT therefore believe that prior to leaving the ground the lanyard is attached to the stringers of the ladder rather than the rungs and that this is only done with three staff present, one climbing, one to provide rescue assistance and the third to assist in case of a fall.

I shall be writing to Network Rail to protest at this proposal but until we receive satisfactory assurances from Network Rail members should utilise to the instruction contained in this Circular.

In addition to the Safety Awareness Brief, Scotland Route are also threatening staff who invoke the Worksafe procedure when complying with this instruction with disciplinary action in direct contravention of an agreement between RMT and the company.

RMT believe that the instruction contained within the Safety Awareness Brief issued by the company do not protect staff as adequately as the RMT instruction. I will be raising these concerns with the company and with the Office of Rail Regulation.

Please bring the contents of this circular to the attention of relevant members.

Yours sincerely
Mick Cash
General Secretary