CIRAS Case study: Crewe train maintenance depot

Date: 15/05/2020
Author: CIRAS
Company: CIRAS

In January 2019 an employee contacted CIRAS’ confidential reporting hotline to raise a concern about employees being exposed to dust at Arriva TrainCare’s Crewe depot. They said that the dust built up after trains were sanded down. Their report led to an investigation and improvements at the facility.

Passenger trains and locomotives are maintained at Crewe depot, where a key activity is removing old paint finishes and applying a new colour scheme. Arriva TrainCare (ATC) outsources this work to a contractor and it takes place in designated preparation areas and paint booths. The contractor provides key safety documentation that ATC reviews regularly during audits and inspections.

The employee said the extractor fans in the sanding machines were under-performing and that sanding was happening increasingly on the shop floor due to lack of space in the designated areas.

They were concerned that diesel fumes and dust exposure could lead to long-term or chronic respiratory diseases and therefore asked if Arriva TrainCare could:

  • investigate the sanding machines and extractor fans to ensure they were working
  • ensure all preparation work including sanding is carried out in the designated areas
  • consider hiring more cleaning to staff to collect dust after sanding work.

What happened next?

ATC responded that it takes the health and safety of its employees, contractors and visitors very seriously and, when it received the report, its health, safety, environment and quality (HSEQ) manager began a thorough investigation.

This included reviewing the operations and working environment, interviewing management and people involved in the sanding activity and reviewing risk assessments for processes and equipment.

It found that some tasks were not detailed robustly in the risk assessment and key control measures were missing. It also identified processes that were not as effective as its business procedures or regulatory requirements required.


  • A full operational review of the sanding and vehicle preparation processes, with updates to the process risk assessment and safe system of work
  • New, environmentally friendly equipment to further reduce the build-up of debris
  • Most train preparation and sanding activities moved to the ‘silent hours’, when workshop staff have finished for the day, or at weekends
  • Most paint spraying and preparation work taking place in the dedicated booths, but when not possible, then this work taking place during the silent hours in controlled conditions
  • Additional extraction procured
  • ‘No entry’ signs displayed when the work is taking place
  • Safety barriers erected to stop people walking into preparation areas
  • Residual dust cleaned up
  • All equipment inspected before use and defects reported and repaired, with any defective assets quarantined from use
  • All equipment maintained and inspected in accordance with relevant regulations
  • The contractor briefing all staff on the importance of working to business procedures
  • Monitoring and auditing continuing as part of the ATC internal audit programme


ATC learnt that they need to monitor this environmentally challenging process at all times to ensure that control measures remain effective.