KiwiRail innovation wins safety award

30 May 2013 2:02PM

KiwiRail’s innovations to prevent falls have won the the Kensington Swan Best Initiative to Address a Safety Hazard category in last night’s New Zealand Workplace Health and Safety Awards.

KiwiRail’s GM Safety and People, Matt Ballard says, “Falls within any industry contribute to an unacceptable number of serious harm incidents.”

“The diversity of KiwiRail business operations presents many different types of challenges and hazards for our people on a daily basis.  Our structures teams required solutions that would enable them to safely complete maintenance and inspection work at heights.”

“Smart thinking, collaboration and dedication to getting it right resulted in two innovative safety systems, which we have introduced to eliminate falls from heights on our rail corridor.”

“The Rail Trolley Anchor and Rail Safety Cage we have designed, trialled and produced  represent leading edge design and technology for our industry.”

He says, “Initiated by a KiwiRail Structures Inspector, the Rail Trolley Anchor is a mobile fall arrest anchorage for rail bridge work where there is any potential for free fall of a worker.  After almost two years of testing and development, KiwiRail now has working prototypes and these are thought to be an international first for the rail industry.”

A further height safety initiative is the Rail Safety Cage.  Mr Ballard says, “This was an initiative of our West Coast track team.  It is an easy to use and transportable barrier system that can be used on small maintenance work on bridges.  Assembled in a safe zone, where there is no risk of falls, it can then be rolled along the track, keeping the workers isolated from fall hazards.”

He says, “We encourage a culture of participation and innovation and these innovations really show the creativity of our people at their best.  They are highly original but also extremely practical and illustrate the type of approach that will enable us to achieve the safe high performance culture we aspire to.”

The winners of the NZ Workplace Health and Safety Awards for 2013 were announced at a gala dinner at SKYCITY Convention Centre in Auckland on 29 May. The awards are organised by Thomson Reuters, publisher of Safeguard magazine, and supported by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).


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

More information

KiwiRail maintains 4000 kilometres of rail across New Zealand and employs over 4000 staff.

KiwiRail’s Health and Safety Strategy specifically targets programmes of work that firstly control fatal risks and secondly reduce harm to people.  The focus of the first part of the strategy is to eliminate or control the significant risks of serious harm.  The include: falls from height; ensuring electrical isolation; separation of people and machinery and safe shunting practices.

Other recent KiwiRail initiatives include:

  • Implementation of random drug and alcohol testing, which is in addition to the previous regime of pre-employment, post-incident and reasonable cause testing.
  • The “SafeSpine” programme, a musculoskeletal health education programme;  a model of health behaviour change creating a positive workplace culture, aimed ultimately at creating a health and safety focused workforce and a reduction in soft tissue injuries. 
  • 179 employees participated (Hutt Workshops) in the pilot, 28 trained as leaders and champions for continuity.
  • 97% of participants indicated their understanding of the importance of regular stretching had changed or somewhat changed at the end of the training/education.
  • 98% of participants indicated they would recommend SafeSpine workshop to their peers.
  • 89% experienced increased flexibility and reduced pain.
  • SafeSpine has since been implemented across two of the three Interislander vessels and Wgtn and Picton ferry terminals.