Hazards and risks can occur both at the private sphere and at the workplace. The definition assigned to a hazard is the condition that has the potential to cause injury, illness and death. It also extends to disrupting operations at work and damaging of goods. Risk can be defined as the probability that a hazard may occur and result in injury. Workplaces pose dangers of safety and risk due to the processes of production. Risk and safety management inculcates the sets of procedures that formulate and implement mitigation measures with regards to hazards. The management of risk is dependent on individual state policies and legislation on risk and safety management. The risk and safety policies on train accidents in Germany are governed by the EU laws together with federal legislation.
The German legislation on health and occupational safety works under the umbrella guidelines that are set out in the Euro wide framework. The European Union guidelines define the structures and rules on occupational risks and its prevention. It also sets regulations on promoting safer working environments. The agency mandated to ensure safety standards in the train sector is the European Agency for Railways (ERA). Its core mandate is set out in regulation 2016/796 (Biennial Report, 2016, p.1). This agency works with stakeholders in the train sector and national train safety bodies of its member states. National Safety Authorities within the EU collect data gathered from this Euro agency for action at the state level.
The Federal Railway Authority in Germany is the agency tasked with supervising railway operations, licensing and safety (BMVI, 2017). It operates in compliance with European Union laws and provides oversight on safety at the state level. This agency supervises safety operations at the federal level while regional railways are supervised by the federal states. It operates under the parent Ministry of Transport and Digital infrastructure. The risk and safety measures in the train sector in Germany are enshrined in the General Railways Act which spells out the statutory obligations to be adhered to. An operational safety management system is a pre-requisite as part of the obligations required to operate. It also has a railway inspectorate that performs random inspections on the railway infrastructure.
The Federal Railway Authority regulates regional agreements on cross acceptance between the member states within the EU (EBA, 2017). This includes agreements between Germany and Italy, France and several other European nations. The rights of passengers are also regulated and safety information guidelines set out. It sets out the rights of the passenger and ensures these rights are safeguarded. Safety rules on stepping distances and gaps are set out in its national safety rules on trains. The National Investigations Body is the investigation branch and carries out investigations after train accidents have occurred within the Federal boundaries. It then initiates the appropriate preventive and corrective measures for the future.
Train Accident- Bad Aibling 2016
In the month of February 2016, two trains in the Bad Aibling region of Germany were involved in a fatal collision which resulted in the deaths of more than ten persons (Railway Gazette, 2016). In addition, more than 85 people were also injured with varying degrees of severity. The accident occurred on the Mangfall Valley Railway which is single-track and involved two Meridian branded trains operated by Bayerische Oberlandbahn. The two trains had passenger numbers in excess of 150 persons. Both trains and the railway line were fitted with a train protection system (PZB) which is a safety measure designed to prevent train locomotive drivers from passing signals at danger by mistake. This safety feature is meant to reinforce signaling system at the sides of the railway track.
According to the investigation reports, the cause of the accident was caused by the train controller who confessed that he had been playing a computer game and was distracted (Zuvela, 2016). While playing on his mobile phone, he transmitted the wrong signaling information to the two trains. When he realized his error, he tried to engage in emergency protocols by sending corrective codes to the two trains. He keyed in the wrong codes and this did not rectify the initial error he had made. The trains collided as they approached a bend which could have contributed to both drivers no seeing each other before the crash. Both trains had a driver and their instructor and were travelling at a relatively high speed when the accident occurred. The automatic braking system that is meant to stop trains that are not scheduled at that time failed to work during the accident.
The breach on safety that translated the risk into an accident has been narrowed down to lapse of attention and breach of safety protocols. The lapse of attention was the primary offsetting cause that was compounded by the breach of safety rules. Lapses can be defined as omissions and missed actions that are caused by lack of proper attention to the task at hand. Most causes of lapse in attention are caused by boredom due to the repetitive nature of a task or job (Hopkins, 2014). Another cause could be attributed to fatigue which has been identified as an Occupational Health Safety hazard. It can result in reduced awareness in situations and impaired procedural memory and the reduced ability to recall information stored in the brain (Dawson, 2012).It can also lead to a state of reduced self-monitoring and greater divergence from the ideal desired state when working.
The breach of safety protocols is in relation to not following the laid out procedures that should be followed in directing traffic over single track rails. The system used over the stretch where the accident occurred was the “token block” which allows for one train at a time to use the railway line (Sharples, 2016). The traffic controller did not check for the schedules of trains for that particular time and gave the go ahead for both trains to use the single track. His instructions disabled the Automatic Train Protection system temporarily. The onboard systems of both trains together with railway track system were disabled. This made it impossible for the system to work automatically and also cut off the input of the train drivers.
Recommendations, Change of Policy and Implementation. The German Rail Accident Investigation agency carried out investigation into the accident and made several recommendations. The investigation showed that the documentation used by the company managing the tracks was outdated and incorrect in some areas. It did not also contain instructions for radio use in emergencies. The owner of the railway line at Bad Aibling is Deutsche Bahn which runs its operations through its subsidiary DB Netze. DB Netze is responsible for ensuring safety and controlling traffic. The company uses Automatic Train Protection (ATP) system which has some shortcomings on safety protocols. Bleiker (2016), states that the report recommended the implementation of the European Train Control System instead of the current system being used.
The company as part of its policy change embarked on working with German Institute for Open Communications systems (FOKUS) in order to certify open-source software using the European standard across its infrastructure (Bleiker, 2016). The software is intended to reduce human errors along high speed railway tracks and to enhance safety of train passengers and crew. Human failure and technical mistakes are the most common cause of train accidents like the one witnessed at Bad Aibling (AP, 2016). The software is meant to be standard across the entire infrastructure operated by Deutsche Bahn. This standardization should result in lower costs of operating uniform safety standard protocols. In addition, Deutsche Bahn adopted an integrated Management System that factors in safety in its Safety Management System.
The implementation involved the installation of a safety management system using global certification at its Schenker Logistics office (DB, 2017). This safety management system is comprehensive and includes measures and protocols that deal with occupational health and safety, management during emergency and fire safety. This is implemented using administrative actions in order to reduce hazards along its infrastructure (Safe Work Australia, 2017). This holistic approach looks intoinputs that affect productivity as human factors. This is intended to reduce human errors as in the case of the Bad Aibling accident. Actions to be taken in emergency and crisis situations are also included as part of the safety management framework. These risk and safety measures are continuously updated to fit the current best industry practices.
The railway line operator has also undertaken a long-term infrastructure upgrade including its trains. The operator has embarked on an upgrade of stretches of its infrastructure which it operates. This involves modernizing the technology which controls the signal systems on danger and command protocols (SKF, 2017).This upgrade also involves building new lines which use new technology on control technology. The operator has undertaken a program to replace its existing fleet of trains with the new ICE-4 which has more security features. This includes smart sensor technology in its wheels which uses redundancy protocols. The sensors are integrated in the bearing unit and works with the existing safety signal systems.
Hazards and risks are a common occurrence at work and require measures in mitigation which incorporates risk and safety features. The risk and safety management within Germany train operations is based on European standards and made operational at the Federal and regional level. The policy framework postulated is transposed into national laws and regulations. The train accident at Bad Aibling was the result of breaches in safety and risk management. The investigation that followed identified gaps in the risk assessment and asset management process. Recommendations made were implemented as a policy shift and infrastructure upgrade. This is to aid in eliminating potential risks in the future.
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