Amey Rail tipped over a road-rail excavator vehicle after trying, and failing, to lift beyond the machine’s safe working capacity.
Investigators discovered that Amey’s crew had disabled the load limiting device after it had warned of an overload.
The Office of Rail & Road (ORR), the industry regulator, brought prosecuted Amey Rail Limited for failing to ensure lifting operations involving lifting equipment were properly planned, supervised, and carried out in a safe manner. Amey pleaded guilty and was issued with a £600,000 fine by Leicester Magistrates on 12th November 2021. Amey was also ordered to pay full costs of £15,119.49 and a victim surcharge of £170.
ORR's prosecution followed an investigation into an incident in the early hours of 21st October 2018 outside Market Harborough station on the Midland Main Line, when a road-rail vehicle (RRV) overturned during an unsafe lift. It was one of pair of RRVs attempting to carry out a tandem lift.
The rolled vehicle's operator had to be pulled from the cab. Despite several other rail workers being in the area of the overturning, no one was seriously injured.
ORR's investigation into the incident found there was a late change in the equipment being used on the night of the accident, which had inadequate lifting capacity for the planned works. To overcome this, it was established that the length of the track to be lifted would need to be reduced from 30 to 20 feet. This critical change was not managed or communicated correctly and resulted in the track panels being cut to the original length of 30 feet – exceeding the capacity for the excavators to be used.
When lifting started, the on-board safety systems on both excavators showed that the weight being lifted was exceeding what they could safely handle. ORR found in its investigation that these warnings were ignored, and the safety systems were disabled to enable the work to continue.
ORR also found that radio-based communication system between the operators and the lifting supervisor developed a defect. Despite replacement equipment being available on site, work continued with the inadequate communications equipment.
These failures led to one of the two excavators becoming overloaded beyond its capacity and toppling onto its side, trapping a worker in the cab, when undertaking a tandem lift of a track panel later established to be 39ft long.
Several members of the lifting team and others in the nearby vicinity kicked through the toughened glass windscreen to drag a worker clear of the cab.
ORR's HM chief inspector of railways Ian Prosser said: "The risks of failing to comply with the lifting regulations are well known throughout the industry and clearly foreseeable. In this case basic errors were made and it is by sheer luck that no one was seriously hurt.
“None of these failures to follow well established procedures, nor the isolation of safety systems on the excavators, were identified despite the presence of two senior members of staff on site during the night to manage the work.
"This meant Amey failed to take measures in order to adequately manage the risks presented when tandem lifting loads of the size and weight of those undertaken on 21st October 2018.”