Keeping Railway Workers Safe on Train Tracks

Safety at work is a priority for all employers who must take steps to ensure that workers are provided with uniforms and protective clothing to allow them to carry out their jobs without danger of injury. Some working conditions require more Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) than others, such as railway construction and train maintenance.

Those who work on the railways must be supplied with protective clothing when working on train maintenance or carrying out rail track maintenance and rail construction. Whether they work for regional train companies or Network Rail, and despite their employers’ precautions, dangers still exist on a railway line .

Why do railway workers need hi vis jackets and protective clothing?

Work on the railways can be dangerous for all who carry out activities on our national rail system. In fact, in 2019-20, occupational hazards caused more than 5,100 injuries on Great Britain’s mainline rail network. Further injuries occurred on the London underground system, and trams, metros and non-Network Rail networks. The main reasons for these injuries, included:

  • being hit by machinery, a train or other vehicles
  • electrocution
  • trips and falls

While trips and falls on railway lines can often be prevented by good observation, regular inspection and preventative measures put in place by employers, extra help is needed to keep railway workers safe from moving equipment and vehicles or electrocution while carrying out rail track maintenance, railway construction or simply executing routine duties on or near trains. This extra help comes in the form of flame retardant gear that protects against sparks and short contact time with flames; ARC protective clothing that will not melt, drip or fuse on contact with an arc flash and hi vis jackets and trousers that will increase visibility of the wearer. 

Interestingly, the first reported use of hi vis jackets was by railway workers on electrified train tracks in Glasgow in 1964. More than half a century later, this ‘firefly’ protective clothing is an essential part of many workers’ uniforms, not just those who work on the railways. With most railway construction and rail track maintenance occurring outdoors, in all weathers and often in bad light, it’s essential that rail uniforms can be easily seen as well as be weatherproof to guard against the elements and comfortable enough to allow easy movement.

What kind of protective clothing should be included in a railway worker’s uniform?

phs Besafe works closely with expert technical garment manufacturers to provide PPE uniform that’s perfectly designed for optimum functionality, durability and protection. The full range of protective clothing helps to guard against sparks, flames, chemicals, electricity, bad weather and dark/busy environments – all conditions that may be encountered by railway workers.

Rail uniforms, and workwear will all consist of a mix of the following, depending on the delegated job:

Jacketsphs Besafe’s flame retardant, arc resistant and hi vis jackets provide comfort as well as protection from the elements. Articulated elbow joints and lightweight construction allow easy movement while double-stitched [RP1] seams and zips protect against wind, and side vents help to keep the wearer cool in warmer weather and their attention on the railway line ahead.

Trousers – elasticated waists and articulated knees with kneepad pockets [RP1] provide additional comfort in PPE trousers from phs Besafe’s protective clothing range. Whether you need hi vis, foul weather, flame retardant or arc resistant trousers, you’ll find handy concertina cargo pockets and hammer loops, as well as reinforced zips, seams and gussets that’ll make every railway worker ready for the railway maintenance or rail construction job at hand. 

Coveralls – non-restrictive coveralls from phs Besafe are loaded with handy pockets and articulated panels and pleats to permit easy movement, and are available in short or tall lengths for optimum fit. Elasticated cuffs and adjustable stud fastenings enable use with or without gloves, providing options for conditions where hi vis, flame retardance, arc resistance or foul weather protection is required.

T-shirts and polo shirts – when a hi vis jacket is too restrictive or for indoor train maintenance work, a PPE t-shirt or polo shirt may suffice. Available from phs Besafe’s PPE range for rail uniforms, these soft-touch lighter options come with hi vis or arc resistant properties.   

All hi vis jackets, trousers and coveralls must conform to the EN20471 (High Visibility Warning Clothing), while protective clothing used in welding, cutting or grinding should conform to both EN11611 (Welding Class 2) and EN11612 (Flame Retardant). Specific to work on the railways, uniforms must also conform to Railway Group Standard RIS-3279-TOM.

This protective clothing should be used in conjunction with safety boots, hard hats and protective gloves where necessary.

What’s the best way to maintain train maintenance and rail construction uniforms?

A clean and tidy uniform reflects positively on an organisation, but all protective clothing must be adequately maintained not only to look good but to remain effective, too. Dirt and grease can inhibit the reflective properties of hi vis jackets while rips and holes can reduce the usefulness of flame retardant and weatherproof PPE.

To keep railway workers’ uniforms in tip top condition, they must be washed regularly at the correct temperatures, using correct detergents. Washing in the wrong conditions with the incorrect detergents can spoil the protective properties of PPE uniform, exposing employees to further hazards.

As well as providing protective clothing to a wide range of industries, including railway workers, phs Besafe has been able to supply a reliable and appropriate laundry service to various railway maintenance and rail construction services. Cutting edge washing techniques help preserve the waterproof and high visibility properties of the garment, extending the usable lifetime of each garment.

Get in touch today to discover how to help keep your railway workers safe with phs Besafe’s range of protective clothing and market-leading laundry service.

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