How hi-visibility clothing is evolving and supporting safety standards across the rail industry:STUART JUKES explains

From the HS2 infrastructure project to the rail strikes of 2016, the workforce on our rail lines are at the forefront of a rail revolution and with this, their health and safety must be treated with supreme importance. The HS2 project, due to begin in January 2017, will require rail workers to brave the elements and achieve the goal of creating 351 miles of cutting edge rail lines. It’s not just large scale projects such as HS2 that need strict health and safety regulations and the everyday maintenance and repair jobs requiring staff to work alongside active lines remain a key task; not a duty to be taken lightly when there’s high-speed trains occupying the tracks. High visibility clothing has gone from a meagre vest to an all encompassing uniform and remains an essential way of keeping the workforce safe and visible.

Safety in Numbers
According to figures published by the Office of Rail and Road Safety for 2016-17, national train cancellations were up 3.8 per cent, and demands to improve the rail system are becoming more prominent than ever. Workforces haveto complete longer hours, often in treacherous conditions, to provide an efficient service and as a result, health and safety incidents do occur. The Office of Rail and Road Safety reports that while there were no workforce fatalities during 2015-2016, some 6,597 injuries occurred on mainlines, 157 of which were major incidents.

Forward Thinking
The Health and Safety at Work Act, established in 1974, was one of the first parliamentary bills to recognise workers wellbeing. Since the 1970s, the act has evolved and developed in all industries. Regulations now specify that any worker who is within three metres (10 feet) of the track must wear an orange, high visibility safety uniform that conforms to both European and Rail GO/RT 3279 standards.

Now, EN ISO 20471: 2013 standard is replacing the EN471 regulations from the past. This standard is now applied internationally rather than remaining Euro- Centric. The change outlines the minimum performance requirements and test methods for professional high visibility clothing, focusing on colour and retroflection. Furthermore, the new PPE Regulation will be coming into force from April 2018 and will increase the responsibility to the entire supply chain for all PPE including hi-vis equipment; for manufacturers, importers, wholesalers, and distributors alike who will have the responsibility of checking that each garment complies with the necessary standards required.

The power of three
The pace of life is increasing and as a result there is an escalating demand for efficient transportation and high visibility uniforms have had to evolve with the seasons. Here are the top three reasons why protective garments are helping to minimise health and safety risks:

  • The waterproof fabric technology has evolved to withstand ever increasing stormy and cold conditions.
  • Garment design has improved to offer optimum visibility for workers.
  • Manufacturers are required to hold an EC Type Examination certificate to prove the garment adheres to the correct regulations.

Without a doubt, 2016 has been a challenging year for the rail industry and in a bid to deliver a swift service; health and safety measures have had to develop. From vests to uniforms, high visibility garments have travelled a long way over the years and despite many other procedures which keep the workforce safe, it plays a key role in protecting those working in this hi-risk industry.

Stuart Jukes is managing director of Pulsar, provider of hi-vis clothing to the rail industry