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Safety and Risk Management

Safety and Risk Management


Risk management is the process employed to tackle risks arising in different sectors such as financial, industrial, environmental, and commercial. The process is used to eradicate or diminish workplace health and safety risks. Australia has implemented Work Health and Safety also known as WHS laws that impose a duty on employers and business people to maintain reasonable health and safety standards (Archer et al. 2014). People undertaking any kind of business must eliminate health and safety risks or thoroughly minimize them where total elimination is not possible. Risk management in a workplace is a legal obligation and various stakeholders in an organization are responsible for the safety of the workers and the public (Raftery, Reilly & Higgon, 2012). Risk management provides an opportunity of clearly defining risks and how it should be managed. The international standard of risk management ensures consistency and clarity that exist in the workplace (Häring, 2015). Australia has experienced several train crashes in the past years. Most of the crashes are attributed to safety breaches. This paper will examine the Cleveland, Brisbane station train crash and the safety breaches that lead to that major incident.

The Incident

On January 31, 2017 a passenger train ploughed into the Cleveland station. The cause of the incident was reported to be a slippery substance on the rail tracks. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau conducted investigations and determined that the local environmental conditions resulted to a slippery substance forming on the tracks. Due to reduced adhesion between the wheels of the train and rail head, the effectiveness of the braking system of the train was diminished. Hence, the train was unable to stop leading to the crash.

Discussion of the Safety Breaches that Lead to the Incident

The Acting QR CEO Jim Benstead made a press statement assuring the public of the safety of QR trains. He claimed that the trains are maintained regularly and there is a pre-inspection of the trains every morning before they leave the depot. The CEO said that the train that crashed underwent a regular maintenance inspection and servicing three weeks prior to the accident. He also maintained that there was no systemic problem or any red flags with the train otherwise it would have been removed from duty. The QR organization issued the statement as a way of mitigating backlash from the public and assuring the passengers that the disaster was due to a technical flaw and not human error (Remeikis, 2013).

Risk management plays a central role in the workplace health and safety regulations in Australia. The process involves the identification of vulnerabilities and hazards in the workplace, their elimination or minimization, and constant monitoring and reviewing of the risks to ensure all the control measures are updated and in place (Zou & Sunindijo, 2015). The train crash in Cleveland is a great example of how safety breaches in the workplace can cause fatalities. The crash outlined the responsibilities of different stakeholders in ensuring that workplace health and safety regulations are efficient and followed. According to the ATSB, contaminants such as leaves, chipped wood, oil and many more particles on the train tracks contributed to the minimal traction between the train wheels and the rails which resulted to the collision. There are a number of safety breaches that can be identified as contributors to the crash (The Australian Transport Safety Bureau, 2013).

The train that clashed is a newer model that is not equipped with devices that enhance adhesion. The older trains in the Queensland Rail fleet have wheel tread brakes that enhance friction when brakes are applied. The mechanism works by scrubbing whereby the wheel treads when the brakes are applied and the friction created improves adhesion. Therefore, the Queensland Rail management created a safety breach by not fitting the new trains with wheel tread brakes making them susceptible to sliding in certain weather conditions (The Australian Transport Safety Bureau, 2013).

An interim report by the ATSB further indicated that Queensland Rail did not adequately alleviate the risks posed by environmental conditions. The report showed that the track had been closed for three days prior to the accident because of harsh storm activity in the area. All the trees and branches had been cleared out while some were crushed onto the tracks. A slippery mixture of the contaminants caused the train to slide causing a collision and a few minor injuries (Holloway & Kerr, 2013).

Changes to Policies and Procedures

Due to the failures that led to the safety breaches and the incident, Queensland Rail developed a Wheel Rail Interface Working Group to make changes and modifications base on the interim report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau. Some of the duties imposed on the Working Group include investigating wheel cleansing adaptation opportunities for the newer class train so as to fit them with devices that increase traction when the tracks are slippery. The organization enlisted the procedures used overseas to deal with the problem of slippery tracks and severe weather conditions. The main aim is to review the specifications on the rail tracks and the wheels to ensure that the necessary modifications are considered (CourierMail, 2013).

The report showed that there was no negligence on the part of the driver because he did everything to try and stop the train. The braking was normal, but the train did not slow down and the driver applied full brakes and emergency braking. The braking and the emergency braking were done in accordance to the set procedures but the train went off the rails. The ATSB claimed that the new brakes are safe, but they should be modified to work under all circumstances. In addition, Queensland Rail has undertaken the practice of emergency exercises to test the efficiency of the emergency response systems and the effectiveness of the newly implemented communication protocol for emergency occurrence response.

The Queensland Rail also imposed a lower speed limitation as the trains approach some stations since the Cleveland incident. Some of the risk controls implemented include the identification of black spot locations. Some areas that have experienced high rates of accidents in the past have started being covered with vegetation also known as vegetation control measures. Additionally, the QR has implemented the practice of treating rail head contaminants to avoid particles and oily substances on the tracks. The organization has also reviewed and updated the training of the train drivers to handle wheel sliding and the testing of sanding equipment on the newer model trains (Worthington, 2013).

Australia has implemented various legislations providing for workplace health and safety. Risk management involves various processes such as risk identification, analysis and evaluation. In risk identification, the QR CEO explained that the organization has a process in place that checks all the trains and tracks to ensure they are thoroughly serviced and maintained to avoid incidents. However, QR missed some risks such a slippery track and the inadequacies of the new trains braking systems. As a result of failure to foresee the risks, the crash happened in Cleveland. In risk analysis, risk management involves determining the likelihood of an incident taking place (Häring, 2015). There are few past reports of trains slipping due to weather conditions in Australia. Therefore, Queensland Rail opened the station for business after closing it for three days. Thus, QR had assessed the risk posed by the severe storm and the ability of the train to transport passengers before opening the station. Risk evaluation entails making a decision on the priority of a risk (Hillson, 2016). QR managed and investigated the incident so as to implement significant measures on their trains and drivers. Drivers were trained on the various components of the new trains and train stations and tracks were improved by planting vegetation and identifying black spots. The rail operators have also been educated on the effects of environmental conditions on the rail surface. Therefore, all the stakeholders must apply appropriate measures to assess and mitigate the risks of operating a train under severe conditions.


In brief, all risks must be identified in a timely manner to avoid injuries and loss of life. The Queensland Rail was accused of safety breaches that lead to the derailment of the train. The train had been closed three days prior due to severe storms in the area. The report showed that the track was wet and slippery due to various contaminants. Therefore, the cause of the incident can be pinned on the harsh environmental conditions. However, the report also claimed that the braking system of the train, though safe, was not adequately modified for traction and adhesion. As a result, the QR had some safety breaches and did not mitigate the risks. Due to the failure of the Queensland Rail risk management system, the organization implemented new policies and practices to help curb future accidents. The process of risk identification and management is a priority to avoid severity and likelihood of the hazards. QR can employ methods such as environmental monitoring and safety audits to ensure that the drivers and passengers are safe even in severe weather conditions.


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