As we mark Rail Safety Week 2020, our teams are taking the opportunity to reflect on health and safety at a unique time in our industry, when the COVID-19 pandemic is requiring a more rigorous and focused approach to work health and safety, while we continue to deliver some of Australia’s largest rail projects.

“SMEC is striving to keep one step ahead during this pandemic, by setting clear minimum requirements for all our employees, whether they are working in the field, in the office or on a project site such as a rail corridor”, says Erica Griffith, Senior Health & Safety Advisor (NSW/ACT).

“Rail safety is a shared responsibility, and we’re committed to partnering with our clients, contractors and communities to promote and support rail safety,” comments Ray Murphy, National Manager – Rail. “Ensuring the health and safety of all our employees, especially those who are still delivering essential rail and metro projects during this pandemic, means conducting ongoing and real time reviews.”

To ensure all projects are appropriately supported, SMEC has implemented a range of measures including issuing its Site Activity Protocol, which details steps to minimise the risk of infection during field work. These steps include Project Managers identifying project-critical tasks and roles; identifying ‘back up’ resources; and ensuring COVID-19 discussions are a part of all team meetings, monthly meetings and field/site pre-start meetings.

“In addition to strict compliance with any official health directives, we’ve also issued a Project COVID-19 Plan template, providing a project-specific approach for managing the risk of COVID-19 transmission,” says Erica.

At SMEC, safety in rail starts from project inception. As engineers and designers, it is our job to create railway systems that are both safe and efficient. Before a rail project is constructed or operational, there are significant gains to be made for the future safety of workers and passengers by developing designs that consider the end user.

“As technology continues to change at a rapid rate and we move towards an automated transport future, our teams are laying the groundwork for a revolutionised rail network where safety will continue to be of the highest priority,” says Ray.

Hosted by the TrackSAFE Foundation, Rail Safety Week is an annual community awareness week held in Australia and New Zealand, designed to highlight the importance of safe rail practices.