Last reviewed 6 April 2021
DB Cargo has been fined £200,000 after pleading guilty to an offence under the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 for failing to protect the safety of its workers following an incident at its Dollands Moor freight yard in 2018.
In a prosecution by the rail regulator, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), Folkestone Magistrates’ Court was told that a shunter had to have his right arm amputated when a freight train collided with his vehicle on a level crossing at the yard in September that year.
The ORR’s investigation found that DB Cargo had failed to carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks associated with the movement of people and trains within the yard and, as a result, a safe system of work was not implemented to protect workers.
District Judge Barron pointed out that there was an obvious risk of a collision between people and trains within the yard, which had been foreseen as long ago as 1991 when the yard was designed, before it became operational in 1994.
At that time, between 8 and 11 track workers or shunters were killed on the railway each year.
Until 2010, the judge noted, safety documentation included a requirement that buggies crossing the sidings should use one of the two subways that were provided at each end of the yard to allow staff access to individual sidings without crossing any tracks.
However, by 2012, this requirement was no longer included and by 2014, only one of the two subways remained open, and its lighting had failed.
Use of this subway was not enforced, so most workers chose to drive across the level crossings instead. There were no barriers, signs or written instructions indicating that vehicles were not allowed to use the level crossings unless signals were being used to stop any approaching trains.
HM Chief Inspector of Railways, Ian Prosser, said: “There were clear and obvious risks of serious injury due to the lack of appropriate ways of working. Today’s sentence shows how important it is that operators have appropriate practices to ensure worker safety.”