Rail Workers Exposed to Human Waste

Fears over rail workers exposure to human waste 25791

A member of staff at Network Rail has revealed potentially poor health and safety in the workplace for thousands of employees.

Talking to BBC Radio Cambridge, a local track maintenance worker said both he and his colleagues were "genuinely concerned" about whether excrement, urine and sanitary towels being dispensed by passing trains was a health hazard.

While newer locomotives will often have a retention tank to keep waste from its toilets from entering the atmosphere, some older models dump it onto the tracks and there have been fears this could cause a whole host of medical issues.

"A train would be coming and we'd stand back the recommended distance. It's not unusual to feel a spray, a kind of mist in the air. That's bad enough, but then you walk back to where you've been working on the tracks there's [faeces] everywhere," the anonymous worker said.

While there are trains running through the affected areas operated by First Capital Connect and CrossCountry, much of the criticism surrounding this situation has been aimed at Greater Anglia Trains. 

More than half of the locomotives belonging to this company are not properly fitted with retention tanks and this means workers are still being exposed to human waste on a regular basis.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health approached by the BBC noted this is a very unpleasant experience for members of staff employed to maintain tracks and that it will "work closely" with Greater Anglia to improve the situation.

Regular inhalation of human faeces has been connected to a host of medical issues, including a weakened immune system, lung problems and viral illnesses.

Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT union, told Cambridge News: "They [workers] are being sprayed with raw sewage because it doesn’t just fall out, these trains are going at 100 mph."

A spokesperson for Greater Anglia said the issue will be resolved in the future, but retention tanks will take time to come into use.

By Chris Stevenson