Better Driving Cabs Report 2020
The health and safety of members is clearly one of the key priorities for a trade union, and ASLEF is no different. What perhaps sets us aside is the fact that, as train drivers, our members’ health and safety is inherently linked with the health and safety of thousands of others.
ASLEF therefore believes that it is in the interest of our trade union, our industry and of parliamentarians to ensure that our members’ working conditions are up to standard. Our health and safety is your health and safety.
Unfortunately, too often, our members are forced to work in cabs that are too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter and poorly designed in terms of ergonomics. This can have a detrimental effect on their ability to safely go about their job.
To gauge how widespread this problem is, and work out what the key issues are, we surveyed our members. Just over a thousand drivers replied.
Our survey of members
There were some extremely alarming results in our survey.
"When it’s extremely hot, the windows are open to the maximum and the noise can be overwhelming at times but it is the only option."
When asked if their cab has been too hot in the last two years, 85% of drivers answered yes. Of those who said it had been too hot, almost all (99%) said this was during the summer, and 33% said during the spring.
When asked how frequently this was a problem during the periods they had identified, 43% said every day or almost every day, 29% said three to five times per week, 15% twice per week, and 12% once per week.
So 72% of those responding, experienced cabs that were too hot for most of their working week during the periods they identified as problematic.
72% said it had been too cold in the cab when thinking about the previous two years.
"Driving requires constant concentration, trying to cope with being freezing cold or too hot is something we shouldn’t have to contend with in 2019. I’ve relieved drivers on early morning winter turns who have been practically blue."
Almost all (98%) said this was during the winter, and 44% said during the autumn. For 19%, spring was also an issue.
When asked how frequently this was a problem during the periods they had identified, 37% said almost or every day, 35% said three to five times per week, 16% twice per week, and 12% once per week. So, 72% of those responding experienced cabs that were too cold for most of their working week during the periods they identified as problematic.
The effects of exposure to extreme temperatures are very concerning.
When asked if exposure to hot or cold temperatures had caused any harmful effects, 50% of those responding to this question said that it had.
92% of these respondents said they had experienced reduced concentration or distraction, 53%
reduced vigilance, 75% had experienced fatigue/ exhaustion, and 23% found themselves going slower in performing tasks. Thirty percent had felt faint or dizzy.
Eight percent said they had come close to or had been involved in a SPAD (signal passed at danger), 10% had come close to or had experienced a station overrun, and 10% had experienced or come close to another operational incident.
What we need
It is clear that poor cab conditions are creating a dangerous environment for our members and directly affecting their ability to drive trains.
There needs to be a maximum working temperature in law for workers, and there must be no exemption for train driving cabs.
This means train operating companies must be required to retrofit cabs to include air conditioning and suitable heating.
Some of the issues around cab conditions can be dealt with industrially, but when it comes to maximum and minimum temperatures, we need legislative change.
With passengers and rail workers at risk, these changes are urgently needed. Our safety is your safety.