KARNATAKA

Pointsman’s death raises safety concerns

Anil Kumar Sastry

BANGALORE: Thursday’s incident at the City Railway Station in which a Railway pointsman was crushed under the wheels of the Lalbagh Express, has exposed the lack of safety measures for ground working staff and the severity of the occupational hazard.

Apparently, deceased Kemparaju was left unawares as the train was moving back and there was no alert. Representatives of Railway Workers’ Unions said that either a khalasi or a guard should be present on the last coach during the backing of the train. However, often this has not been done due to shortage of staff, according to C. Sunish, General Secretary, all India Loco Running Staff Association, South Western Railway.

He said the workers’ demand for provision for light and sound while a train is backing had not been considered by the authorities. Light and sound would alert the staff to be cautious, especially during nights, he said.

Accident

On Thursday, the station master of A Cabin in the City Station instructed Kemparaju to hand over the caution order to the Patna empty rake bound for Bangalore Cantonment for stabling. When the station master noticed that the pointsman had not returned, he began making inquiries and the Railway staff found Kemparaju’s body on the track.

This is not the first railway employee casualty at Bangalore City Railway Station. A year back, Bhakthavalsalam, a pointsman, was run over during a similar shunting operation. About three months ago, Station Master Rajagopal was run over by the Shatabdi Express. In another incident, P. Subramani, who was working as electrical khalasi, was electrocuted while repairing the traction wires some six months ago, Mr. Sunish said.

Issues

The safety measures, with regard to even passengers, are questionable because of the provision of a path in the City Station, called the trolley path, which cuts across tracks. Even the disabled passengers’ assistance vehicle travels along this path, which can meet a similar fate at any time. It is high time the Divisional Railway Manager seriously contemplated a fool-proof safety measure for the on-duty railway staff and passengers, he said.

The foot over bridge and subway are most inconvenient and not easily accessible. Their location and design is also not user friendly and also too narrow and steep. Ramp-like structures at convenient locations would help, he said.

‘Occupational hazard’

The Divisional Railway authorities regretted Kemparaju’s death and termed it an occupational hazard. They said safety standards are continuously being upgraded for this vulnerable section of workers. Maintenance yards have been provided with sufficient lighting and provision for sound alert for backing trains may not be possible, they said.

“Safety concerns are more towards trespassers who are unaware of train movements. Our ground-level workers are supposed to be aware of all the movements. We are inquiring whether the last coach of Lalbagh Express did have a personnel,” said a senior Railway official.

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