International Level Crossing Awareness Day 7th June 2012

31 May 2012

Level crossings can be lethal

This Thursday, 7th June, is International Level Crossing Awareness Day (ILCAD). This may not seem of importance at first glance to rural people, but it should be.

Farmers, more than any group, work around active railways as part of their everyday routine.

In 2010, two farmers lost their lives in accidents at level crossings. The Irish Railway Safety Commission (RSC) does not want a repeat of these tragedies, and is an active participant with over 40 other countries in ILCAD.

Donal Casey, Principal Inspector with the RSC, pointed out that Ireland's rail safety record is good by international standards with fatalities at 25% of the EU average. Accidents at level crossings occur infrequently - there were fourteen involving vehicles or pedestrians in Ireland in the six years between 2006 and 2011 - but these often have tragic consequences. In all, four fatalities resulted from these accidents.

Although 40% of Ireland's level crossings have been removed since 1999, 1,018 level crossings still remain on the active railway and those on busy roads are controlled by the railway. However, 651 are unattended farm-field or pedestrian crossings and a further 160 unattended level crossings are on private and minor roads.

The 'RSC third party guidance on railway risk' is published on its website, and Iarnród Éireann's 'guidance for the safe use of unattended railway level crossings' is available at . These should be essential reading for all farmers who are operating near a level crossing, their families, staff, casual labour, and contractors.

Farmers who have land adjacent to a rail line should also have an emergency contact number for the railway signalman. If this is not displayed at the level crossing, it may be obtained from the Iarnród Éireann divisional engineer's office.

The key points to be remembered are as follows:

Farmers should ensure that animals will not stray and vehicles cannot get stuck on the railway. If either should happen stay clear of the railway and immediately call the signalman, stating the crossing number.

Before crossing with awkward vehicles, dangerous goods or difficult animals, get permission from the signalman. You may need more than one helper.

When herding animals or using loaded tractor forks, a farmer must be accompanied by one or more adult helpers to ensure the line is clear of trains and to control the movement across the line.

Do not conduct repeated movements across the railway, e.g., silage-making, harvesting, without special protection from Iarnród Éireann.

Always look out for trains and give way to them before crossing, open all gates, cross when all clear and shut the gates afterwards.

ILCAD's slogan 'Act safely at level crossings' is simple but clear. It's one we should all heed, all the time.


[The RSC would like to acknowledge the input of Mr. Pat O'Toole of the Irish Farmer's Journal].