Dangers associated with using portable jacks

13 August 2019

Portable rail vehicle lifting jacks (‘portable jacks’) are used to lift rolling stock to accomplish bogie and wheelset changes and conduct other rolling stock maintenance-related work.

If portable jacks are not used correctly, lifting of railway vehicles poses a risk to safety. If the stock falls or the jack fails, people working underneath or in close vicinity may be crushed to death or seriously injured.

Some of the potential risks to safely using portable jacks include:

  • the ground upon which the jacks are placed cannot support the mass and load exerted on them;
  • the portable jacks are not fit for service or have not been maintained appropriately;
  • staff using portable jacks are not appropriately trained or competent in their use; and
  • the lifting of railway vehicles has not been identified as a risk and measures have not been put in place to eliminate or minimise these risks.

Rail Transport Operators (RTOs) should take into account several key factors in managing these risks.

  • Operator risk registers should identify the risks inherent in lifting railway vehicles and pro-actively detail and document risk mitigations.
  • Appropriate assessments should be conducted on the areas where portable jacks are to be placed to demonstrate that those areas support the mass and load exerted on them from using portable jacks to lift railway vehicles.
  • The lifting jacks should be designed to suit the application and have current certification demonstrating that they are fit for purpose.
  • Evidence of instructions and training covering jack and lifting operations should be provided.
  • Evidence of staff competency for jack operation and railway vehicle lifting should be provided.

Under the Rail Safety (Local Operations) Act 2006(Vic), RTOs have a duty to ensure safety so far as is reasonably practicable. In meeting this requirement RTOs are encouraged to take the points above into account in managing the associated risks. Additionally, it is important rail safety workers are made aware of, and are familiar with, these controls and receive adequate training from the RTO on how these procedures and controls are to be implemented.

Example of a portable jack