KiwiRail says facts about Kaimai Tunnel incident should be clarified

11 March 2013 10:10AM

On 25 August 2012 an incident occurred in the Kaimai Tunnel where contractors’ staff became exposed to carbon monoxide. KiwiRail takes safety seriously.  An investigation was undertaken subsequent to the incident and all recommendations were immediately implemented.

There has never been any attempt by KiwiRail to deny this incident. On the contrary, all omissions have been acknowledged and documented and learning from the incident continues to inform improvements in our tunnel safety procedures.

Furthermore, a Kaimai Tunnel health and safety focus group will convene in two weeks’ time and will have an opportunity to review terms of reference for a comprehensive review of operations and safety in the Kaimai Tunnel.  

However, recent commentary in the media has ignored or distorted some of the facts.

  • Contrary to some claims, the workers in the Kaimai Tunnel all had access to safety equipment.  The Person in Charge had his own equipment.  Gas masks with two filter canisters each were issued from KiwiRail stocks for the remaining nine.
  • The work party did not walk out of the tunnel.  They drove out in two hi-rail trucks.  The reason for choosing a further exit had nothing to do with disorientation, but was because rail had been removed from the worksite area, necessitating departure to opposite ends of the tunnel.
  • Monitors show that carbon monoxide levels barely exceeded a quarter of the ceiling where gas masks are required to be worn compulsorily. KiwiRail does recognise that the evacuation of the tunnel should have proceeded earlier.
  • No significant level of nitrous oxide was detected on the day.
  • Training was provided to six of the group by a senior KiwiRail staff member.  The remaining four were partnered with a trained individual.  KiwiRail has now stipulated that ALL staff undertaking a substantial work activity in the tunnel in future must be trained in accordance with tunnel gas instructions.
  • The recovery procedure for an incident of this level was rest, fresh air, food and drink and all of these requirements were met on the day. KiwiRail has now revised the procedure, however, and anyone affected in future will have a medical test.



Media Contact: Sarah Pomeroy, Senior Communications Advisor, 021 804 906