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Potential exposure to contaminants in tunnels

Feb 24, 2011News

The RTBU is working with rail operators to ensure train crews are adequately protected from potential exposure to dangerous contaminants, including diesel fumes in the case a train breaks down in a tunnel. Crew is responsible for securing the train which requires the crew to exit the cab, resulting in potential exposure to atmospheric contaminants.

A number of incidents have been reported when trains become disabled within tunnels. The RTBU notified Workcover through the Rail Industry Safety Forum (RISF) that the identified control measures that now exist in some areas do not minimise the effect to members of contaminants, when issues such as becoming disabled within a rail tunnel occurs.

At previous RISF meetings it was noted that the proposed re-breathers put forward as a minimal control may not meet the risk criteria to fully complement our members’ safety. Further engineering controls may have to be sought as re-breathers are only used to clear the tunnel interior and do not allow further emergency work to be performed.

The RTBU has received the positive news that PN Coal has installed and trained crew on the Union’s interim control treatment measure – SSR90 equipment – on all locos operating out of Port Kembla and Lithgow; however drivers at Morandoo Depot are still waiting for safeguards to be put in place.