PTS (personal track safety)
Personal track safety (PTS) is a qualification which every worker has to have before being allowed to work on or near any line owned or managed by Network Rail.
It is designed to help workers to understand the systems that keep them safe.
The main risks of working on the railway are:
- being hit by a train, on-track plant, or a road rail vehicle
- electrocution fron an overhead power line or a conductor rail
- trips and falls.
PTS training aims to make rail workers aware of their surroundings at all times on the railway, so they stay safe.
When you start work on the rail system
At first you will have a probationary period of about six months, and you will wear a blue hard hat to show you are inexperienced. This which will show up when your Sentinel card is scanned. When you are judged to have enough experience, usually by your supervisor, you will be allowed to wear a white hard hat.
The COSS (controller of site safety) will make sure that you have a safe system of work (sometimes called SSOW) so you are not at risk from trains or electrified equipment. The COSS wears a blue badge with ‘COSS’ on it.
A safety briefing will include:
- where you will work and what you will do
- how you will get to the work site
- what hazards there are
- what the site limits are
- the speed limit and direction of the lines and whether they are open or blocked
- how you will communicate in an emergency and who to contact.
The safe system of work will also tell you how you will be protected from trains.
- Fence – a fence will be put up between your worksite and the nearest open line.
- Safeguard – all lines are blocked and no trains will come through the site.
- Site warden – a site warden will make sure you stay in a safe area while you work. Never distract a site warden.
- Equipment warning – a warning system, operated by a lookout, or automatically, or by the train, will give you enough warning to reach a safe position at least 10 seconds before a train arrives.
- Lookout warning – a lookout will warn you in time to get to a position of safety at least 10 seconds before the train arrives. Never distract a lookout.
You must be in a position of safety at least 10 seconds before a train arrives. Acknowledge the driver’s warning by raising one arm above your head. Do not leave your position of safety until the COSS tells you to do so.
What is a position of safety?
A position of safety is
- at least 1.25metres (four feet) from the running line for trains going up to 100 miles per hour
- at least 2 meters (six foot six inches) from the running line for trains going between 101 and 125 miles per hour.
An authorised walking route provides safe access to or from a place of work.
Before you go onto or near the line:
- Make sure you have your Sentinel card with you.
- Wear the appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment). This includes safety boots, a hard hat (white or blue) and orange high visibility clothing. You may not wear yellow, red or green clothing or hard hat because these colours are used for signals on the railway.
- Know the speed and direction of trains.
- Know any other hazards.
- Walk in a position of safety and face the direction of the trains if you can.
- Take extra care in junction areas.
- Have a safe system of work agreed before you go out.
- Report anything that you think is unsafe.
Danger from electric current
Overhead lines provide trains with 25,000 volts of alternating current. You should behave as if the overhead line equipment (OLE) is live at all times. Make sure you and anything you hold does not come any closer than 2.75 meters (9 foot) of any live OLE.
Conductor rail (third rail) provide trains with up to 750 volts of direct current. Make sure you and anything you hold does not come into contact with a conductor rail – you must always stand at least 300mm (one foot) away from the third rail.
Make sure you use insulated tools and be extra careful if you are working with liquids or near floodwater.
Never place objects across the rails – they might change the signals. Do not put metal near signalling equipment, because it could interfere with it.
Network Rail has produced a keypoints document (NR9922 – Personal Track Safety pdf) which you can download from their Safety Central web page.
NSARE, the National Skills Academy for Railway Engineering accredits training providers who offer PTS qualifications. VGC Training has been rated ‘outsanding’ by NSARE.