On The Right Track: Connected Worker Solutions For Rail Worker Safety

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On The Right Track: Connected Worker Solutions For Rail Worker Safety

The European rail industry has experienced multiple publicized accidents in 2023 alone. Incidents range from collisions with rail assets to worker strikes resulting in serious injuries and fatalities. Take the Turin, Italy rail incident when five track maintenance workers were struck and killed by a train while performing overnight maintenance works. Or the Netherlands passenger train that collided with a maintenance crane, resulting in the death of the crane operator and 20 people injured. Events like these have captured public and regulatory attention, placing added pressure on firms in the industry to consider solutions to mitigate these risks.

The European Union Agency for Railways (ERA) reports that in 2021, 683 people were killed and 513 seriously injured in railway accidents in the EU. The region has taken multiple steps to curb these statistics through consistent safety practices under the European Union Agency for Railways's Common Safety Method, automated systems for train control and signalling, and stringent certification requirements for worker safety competence. There remain opportunities to mitigate safety hazards in the industry through advancements in increasingly viable IoT, AI and analytics technologies.

Connected worker solutions present an avenue for safety improvement. These solutions feature handheld or wearable devices with integrated software applications, which together enhance worker efficiency and safety. The rail transportation industry is suited to leverage this technology given its remote operations, sizeable lone worker contingent, and disconnected real-time asset data and worker safety practices. These solutions are garnering commercial attention, with Verdantix estimating that the market will grow at a CAGR of 15.3% globally, from $1.38 billion in 2022 to $3.24 billion in 2028.

Vendors have recognized the need for connected worker solutions to improve safety in the rail industry. Take Rombit, an Antwerp-headquartered safety technologies provider that developed Infralert, a cloud-based platform that connects sensors in railroad infrastructure to a wearable device that alerts workers about oncoming trains. Belgian rail network operator Infrabel, which employs 10,000 workers and serves 600,000 travellers daily, has engaged Rombit in a €2.2 million project to deploy Infralert to support frontline operator safety. Another example is Tended, a UK-headquartered wearables provider that has jointly developed a geofencing solution with UK’s Network Rail, deploying over 50 wearables in 2022. The solution allowed Network Rail site managers to create work boundaries that alerted frontline workers when surpassed, at a median accuracy of 75mm. Together, these examples highlight the potential for connected worker devices to improve the situational awareness of frontline workers, an additional safeguard against serious accidents.

Embracing these technological advancements can help the rail industry realize a zero-incident objective. To read more about innovations in EHS, please read our Tech Roadmap: EHS Technologies 2023.

Rain Chiang


Rain is an Analyst in the Verdantix EHS practice. His current research agenda focuses on the intersection between EHS and ESG priorities. Prior to joining Verdantix, Rain gained consulting experience from internships at EY and P&G. He holds an MA in Economics and Politics from the University of Edinburgh.