Railway Possessions

Summary

Working under possession is a critical control measure on the UK railway, including the London Underground, designed to ensure the safety of workers when maintenance, repairs, or upgrades are required on the tracks. "Possession" refers to a period when designated sections of the railway are closed to train movements, effectively isolating them so that workers can perform their tasks without the risk of train traffic.

Working under possession is a critical control measure on the UK railway, including the London Underground, designed to ensure the safety of workers when maintenance, repairs, or upgrades are required on the tracks.

“Possession” refers to when designated sections of the railway are closed to train movements, effectively isolating them so that workers can perform their tasks without the risk of train traffic.

Key Features of Working Under Possession

1. Planning and Coordination

  • Possessions are meticulously planned to minimise disruption to regular services. This includes detailed scheduling during off-peak hours, overnight, or during weekends.
  • Coordination with various stakeholders, including train operators, engineering teams, and safety personnel, is essential to ensure that all aspects of the work are covered and risks are managed.

2. Safety Briefings and Training

  • Workers involved in the possession must undergo specific safety briefings focused on the tasks and potential hazards associated with the work.
  • Regular training sessions keep all personnel updated on safety protocols and emergency procedures.

3. Access Control

  • Controlled access points are established to ensure that only authorized personnel can enter the work area during possession.
  • These points also help manage logistics and ensure all personnel are accounted for before and after the possession period.

4. Signal Blocking and Isolations

  • Signals are set to red to prevent train entries, and isolation measures are applied to electrical systems, particularly in electrified areas like the London Underground.
  • Physical barriers or locks may be used to enforce these isolations further.

5. Monitoring and Communication

  • Continuous communication is maintained throughout the possession period. Radio systems and emergency contact protocols are essential, especially in underground environments with unreliable mobile signals.
  • Supervisors and safety officers monitor the work to ensure compliance with safety standards and respond quickly to emerging issues.

6. Emergency Preparedness

7. Audit and Inspection

  • Regular audits and inspections are conducted to ensure possession protocols are followed.
  • Feedback mechanisms are in place to learn from each possession and improve future safety and efficiency.

Importance in the London Underground

In the confined and complex environment of the London Underground, working under possession is especially important due to workers’ proximity to live electrical systems and the necessity of minimising disruptions in a busy urban transit system. The strict adherence to possession times and protocols ensures that work is completed safely and efficiently, with minimal impact on the regular operation of the transit system.

Overall, working under possession is a vital safety and operational strategy in the railway industry, providing a structured approach to managing the risks associated with trackside work.

This article was written by Mathew Oldham (HSQE Consultancy Ltd). Mathew has over 20 years of experience in health and safety and an MSc (Hons) in Construction Management. Mathew is NEBOSH Health and Safety, Construction, Fire, Environment and Diploma qualified and CertIOSH.

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