Railways/rail transport

The European Directive 2016/797/EU on the interoperability of the rail system within the European Union takes utmost precedence in the hierarchy of the body of regulations. The directive is supported by technical specifications for interoperability (table of TSIs). Although they may contain requirements relating to occupational safety and health, the TSIs are generally drawn up without the involvement of OSH experts. They also make reference to standards, which as a result acquire binding force. The leaflets of the International Union of Railways (UIC) are very detailed but less binding in nature.

When formulating comments on railway standards, the KAN Secretariat has in the past repeatedly noted issues concerning railway law and its interaction with occupational safety and health. The reason for this is that the European Machinery Directive, and therefore its national transposition, do not apply to railway vehicles. These vehicles are explicitly excluded from the scope of the German Ordinance on workplaces (ArbStättV). Locomotives also do not constitute work equipment in the sense of the German Ordinance on Industrial Safety and Health (BetrSichV).

What conclusions can nevertheless be drawn from the relevant occupational safety and health regulations and rules, for example with regard to risk assessment? Where can the occupational safety and health community find legal arguments for certain requirements? In the past, KAN comments have frequently been geared to OSH principles originating in the field of machine safety. These have however not always led to success on the standards committees.

Two KAN expert discussions were held in 2018 and 2019. Their purpose was an exchange of views on legal aspects in consideration of occupational safety and health and the technical safety of railway vehicles, and development of proposals for solutions.

Um sich über die rechtlichen Zusammenhänge mit Blick auf den Arbeitsschutz und die technische Sicherheit von Eisenbahnfahrzeugen auszutauschen und Lösungsvorschläge zu erarbeiten, wurden 2018 und 2019 zwei KAN-Fachgespräche durchgeführt.

These discussions showed the content of standards in the railway sphere to be derived from that of the Technical Specifications for Interoperability (TSIs), which are drawn up at the European Union Agency for Railways (ERA). The occupational safety and health lobby is not involved in the TSI working groups as a stakeholder. The trade unions are actively involved only where the TSIs impact directly upon employees' working conditions, safety and health; they are however non-voting members. Where the TSIs do impact directly upon the social environment or working conditions, the social partners are consulted only in writing. At the expert discussion, the German Federal Railway Authority (EBA) offered to grant OSH experts membership on its national mirror committees to the TSI working groups. The OSH lobby should avail itself of this opportunity, since much work still needs to be done, particularly with regard to  designing railways ergonomically in the interests of workers. Furthermore, even though the relevant European draft standards are reviewed by CEN/TC 256 WG 51, Labour Health & Safety – the working group responsible for railways – with respect to occupational safety and health, it is essential that the voice of occupational safety and health be heard on the next level up, at the ERA.

Do you have any questions on this topic, or need support? If so, please contact Katharina Schulte.