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Occupational Health & Safety | Transport & Logistics

The role of safety in delivering New Zealand’s largest infrastructure project

22 Mar 2019, by Amy Sarcevic

Auckland’s rail network is undergoing a significant upgrade, to accommodate exponential population growth.

The City Rail Link (CRL) is New Zealand’s largest transport infrastructure project and will transform the way people travel, live and work in the country’s biggest city.

The project involves the construction of 3.2 km twin tunnels, two new underground stations, and the refurbishment of two existing stations.

When CRL is completed in 2024, the network will cater for up to 55,000 passengers per hour, doubling the capacity of the Auckland rail network.

Ahead of the RISSB Rail Safety Conference, CRL’s General Manager Assurance and Integration, Russell McMullan, told us how the project has overcome notable regulatory and safety hurdles, and made progress towards its lofty goals.

Refreshing national safety standards

“A key challenge at the beginning of the project was working with national safety standards that were established for relatively low-intensity national passenger and freight operations; and exploring whether they were suitable for a high-intensity metro operation”, said Russell.

“Although these standards served their purpose for the period in which they were created, we found that they didn’t cater quite as well to an operation of this magnitude”.

To address this, CRL has worked closely with the regulator (The New Zealand Transport Agency) and explored the efficacy of overseas safety and risk frameworks.

“As a result of our analysis, we settled on using a European standard (EN50126). This has provided us a risk and assurance framework to ensure that the delivered project will be comparable to a globally reputable railway system”, Russell continued.

“In addition, we have augmented the EN51026 using Goal Structuring Notation, to support some specific legislative requirements in New Zealand.

“We’ve undertaken separate and discreet risk assessments in major areas related to railway risks, using a detailed SFAIRP (So Far Is As Reasonably Practicable) analysis to ensure our risk assessments are robust”.

“So far this approach has gone exceptionally well, and has allowed us to proactively demonstrate safety to the regulator and our delivery partners, and increase stakeholder confidence”.

Maintaining compliance

A related challenge has been coordinating a large-scale construction project amid recent changes in ‘safety at work’ legislation.

“Following New Zealand’s Pike River mining disaster that killed 29 in 2010, the legislative landscape of NZ changed to introduce broader safety duties on both organisations and individuals”, said Russell.

“We are also working with a regulator that is well resourced and very proactive in terms of worker health and safety management. In other words, we are operating in a much stricter environment.

“We applaud the legislative changes, as this supports City Rail Link’s vision for safe delivery of this project. Of course, there have been some challenges in terms of making them work in a large underground rail project context, with interfacing regulators.

“The differing nature of the health and safety regulations, mining regulations, and interface with an operating railway has resulted, for example, in some complexity which has implications in terms of operational efficiency.

“One key initiative to support our understanding of our safety system maturity is through the adoption of the risk management maturity model from the UK (RM3).

“So far, the RM3 has been well received by our existing suppliers, the two alliance groups tendering for the CRL contract, and our health and safety regulator. We are very confident about the benefits of rolling it out on a larger scale moving forward.

“The model looks at all entities managing the delivery of work for CRL, and aspects such as governance and leadership, safety management systems, and organisational responsibilities.

“It ensures that we have the right elements to effectively communicate safety requirements, plan and execute risk controls, engage effectively with workers and monitor our performance.

“It’s essentially a framework from which we can score ourselves, including our alliance partner, in order to identify areas where we can do better”.

Maximising health and safety talent

“We do have a scarcity of skilled health and safety resources in New Zealand, overlaid by a skilled labour shortage and a legacy of underinvestment in construction workers across all trades”, said Russell.

“In tackling this challenge we have worked closely with the health and safety regulator, contractors and alliance partners, to really raise the bar in terms of employee education and skilling of workers, health and safety representatives, managers, and leaders.

“We have started to use learning teams to enhance our ability to predict and avoid hazardous situations, increase employee engagement and bolster our efforts to achieve meaningful safety improvements for those doing the work.

“Our approach has been to ‘increase the sum of our parts’, rather than our actual staff numbers”.

Russell McMullan will address the RISSB Rail Safety Conference – due to take place 2-3 April 2019 – where he will talk more about CRL’s operational safety strategy.

Register now to secure your seat.

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