Lanes new safety device could transform the rail industry

The Lanes Group has developed a simple yet highly innovative safety device that has the potential to transform working at height across the rail industry – significantly improving safety, productivity and staff satisfaction.

The new rail safety strop is attached to the rail, acting as a restraint point, to stop staff working at height from entering unsafe areas and preventing falls.

The simple device has been developed by the Lanes Group’s Rail Division at Rainham in Essex, working in close partnership with London Underground Ltd (LUL).

It has now been approved for use on LUL’s network. But Scott Tracey, the division’s Health and Safety Manager, who has led the development of the device, says it has applications across the rail industry.

He said: “The rail safety strop takes a quarter of the time to set up, compared with the system it replaces. It can be operated by one or two operators, rather than four, is one tenth of the cost and virtually eliminates trip hazards.

“Significantly, because it is so much easier to use, it has been readily welcomed by our teams, which gives us greater assurance that the new safety procedures are being fully complied with.”

The rail safety strop replaces the conventional weighted man-anchor system, which has ten components, together weighing 250kg, and must be partially dismantled and reassembled 24 times to complete work on an average platform. The rail safety strop has one component and weighs just 4kg.

To use the man-anchor system, each member of a four-operator team must move the equivalent in weight of 18 average-sized men on each platform – compared with one operator moving the equivalent of 1.2 men with the rail safety strop.

The idea is just one of the successes since Lanes for Drains won a TPS (Total Purchased Services) maintenance contract in 2010.

Matt Todd, Director of the Lanes Group Rail Division, said: “Under TPS, LUL requires contractors to be innovative in their service delivery. We looked at the systems for safe working at height on platform canopies and realised there was an opportunity for improvement.

“We took the idea of using the rail as a restraint point to LUL and then worked with our colleagues at LUL’s Asset Performance Directorate to develop a Safe System of Working. It’s an excellent example of teamwork to gain real improvement.”

LUL construction supervisors James Elligott and Michael Billingham have been working with the Lanes team on the project. James Elligott said: “As the system is so easy to set up, it gives us more confidence that operatives will follow the safe system of work, therefore reducing the risk of a fall.”

Mimi Worku, Stations and Depots Delivery Manager for LUL, said: “As part of our health and safety improvement plan, we have worked as a team with Lanes and their supply chains to continuously improve the safety culture on site.”

Scott Tracey said: “We have only just started to use the device but we would expect it to have a significant long-term impact on our health and safety, and productivity performance, in delivering our maintenance contracts.

“There is no reason why the system could not be used across the rail network and we will be seeking to incorporate it in the delivery of future maintenance contracts we hope to win on both Network Rail and the London Underground.”

Rail safety strop – comparative benefits

Weighted man-safe anchor system Rail safety strop
Cost = £695 + VAT Cost = £65 +VAT
Weight = 25kg per component (total of 250kg for weighted anchor when assembled). Weight = 4kg includes the strop and shackle.
The weighted anchor system has 10 components which have to be partially dismantled and put back together 24 times to complete work on an average platform. The lifting strop has one component.
As it has to be partially dismantled this encourages the unit to be dragged to its next location which could damage the station platform. The lifting strop is light and easy to carry.
Due to the awkwardness of its use, there is increased risk that operatives will try to take short cuts which pose a significant risk when working at height. There are important restrictions, specifically relating to the live rail, but potential for mis-use is greatly reduced.
Difficulties in using the system has an adverse affect on staff morale significant risk when working at height. The idea for the lifting strop has come from the staff themselves, so buy-in is high. Its ease of use and reduced risks has a positive effect on morale.
The system is a significant slips, trips and fall hazard both during its movement and when in place at height. The lifting strop is easy to carry and does not cause an extra hazard on the platform.
The system takes up to four members of staff to operate. It has been calculated the total amount of time spent operating the system on an average (120m) platform is 192 minutes. Using the lifting strop system takes 1-2 operatives. Total time required to operate the system is 48 minutes. It is envisaged that two strops would be used simultaneously, increasing productivity still further.


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