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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 3 (July 1, 1927)

The Board's Message. — Accidents And Safety Measures

page 4

The Board's Message.
Accidents And Safety Measures.

A Comparison between the figures relating to accidents on our railways during the financial years ending 31st March, 1926, and 1927, respectively, whilst revealing in some aspects considerable grounds for satisfaction regarding the progress made, brings into prominence details of features showing where, and to how great an extent, improvement might be effected by the individual in reducing the frequency of accidents.

Broadly analysed, it may be said that whilst the care of the Railways for the safety of their passengers shows a very high degree of efficiency, the care of the public for themselves (particularly at level crossings) and of employees for themselves (in the performance of their work) has not reached nearly so high a standard. From this it almost appears that self-preservation—the “first law of nature”—is treated on our system as of secondary importance. Such a condition would only be reasonable if the two safeties—care of others and care of self—were in conflict. But in practically every instance of personal accident recorded, the individual accident did not in any way conduce to the general safety—it had none of the elements of altruism.

Turning to the figures, the year just finished shows a clean bill so far as fatal accidents to train passengers are concerned. With over 26 million passengers carried, this is a result of which both the staff, as operators, and the public, as owners, may well feel proud.

The total number of train accidents (both to passengers and employees) was six, a figure which compares most favourably with the 41 of the previous year. Personal accidents on the line (other than train accidents) amounted to 20 less than for the year 1925–26. There is also a good improvement in relation to shunting accidents.

In the Workshops, however, there has been hardly any improvement. Among a total staff in the vicinity of 4,000 there were 689 accidents in the former year and 660 in the latter. For the purposes of these figures only such casualties are included as result in the employee concerned being incapacitated from duty for a period of five hours in any one of the three days following the occurrence. A yearly accident to one out of every six workshops employees is a rate which every effort must be made to reduce. The Board has endeavoured to make the conditions better by supplying better lighting, improved safety machinery, and general safety propaganda, but the result has not come up to expectations. Further investigation into this aspect is intended during the present year, and the assistance of all concerned is asked in a big effort to improve the accident figure for the workshops.

Turning to level crossing accidents, during last year the number of motor vehicle collisions at level crossings increased from 87 to 116, an increase of 33 per cent. As the number of registered motor vehicles operating increased by only 22 per cent. it will be seen that the position has become worse instead of better. This is all the more regrettable when it is remembered that last year the Department ran an extensive “Safety First” campaign by means of advertisements and posters, and the press of the Dominion devoted much space to impressing on the road—using public the need for care. Yet every level crossing accident recorded has been the result of a breach of the law by the road—using motorist. In no case has there been an accident where the motorist stopped, looked, and listened before attempting the crossing. Crossing signals, bells, keepers, booms, signs, and warnings of every other description are failing everywhere to restrain crossing recklessness. Fortunately two checks have been found effective. One is the action of certain firms in requiring their employees to stop on every occasion before negotiating a crossing; the other is the formation of societies where the members pledge themselves to a like course. The honour called for in keeping a pledge of this kind is likely to do more than anything else amongst New Zealanders of all classes towards the prevention of crossing accidents, and the Board asks the public to enter into the spirit of this suggestion, the materialisation of which it will welcome and assist.