Work-related health issues - key questions and answers

This page provides information on work-related health issues in the rail industry and directs you to detailed advice to help you manage and control the health risks.

On this page:


Where can I find advice on a work-related health disease?

The HSE's website provides detailed advice on most work-related diseases under tackling occupational disease.

How do I report a (RIDDOR) rail-related occupational health disease to ORR?

You can find out how to do this in our reporting occupational diseases webpage.

How can I improve my health management skills?

Our webpage on rail manager competence on occupational health explains why these skills are needed and gives advice and guidance on how they can be improved.

How do I carry out a health risk assessment?

Advice on how to carry out a risk assessment is on HSE's website. There is also helpful guidance on health and wellbeing assessment in rail on RSSB's website. You can also see our advice on using the railway management maturity model to assess occupational health risk management.


How do I manage my work to prevent my workers developing an occupational health problem?

You need to start by assessing the risks from your work activities. You can find advice on how to carry out a risk assessment on HSE's website, as well as on RSSB's health and wellbeing assessment page. The assessment will identify the risks and from this you can then work out what you need to do to eliminate and control the risks and prevent workers from being harmed.

How do I carry out a COSHH assessment to ensure my company is safely using chemicals products or other hazardous substances?

HSE's advice on what to look for when doing HSE has produced comprehensive advice on what to look for when doing COSHH assessments, including how to ensure that your assessment identifies which controls are needed to protect workers and others from harmful effects of hazardous substances

How do I carry out a COSHH assessment to ensure my employees are not adversely affected by bugs, dust or fumes?

RSSB's understanding health hazards web page has helpful advice on how specific dusts, fumes and microbiological hazards can affect rail workers' health. You can find extensive guidance on how to assess and control exposure to specific hazardous substances on HSE's website, including, for example, lead dust and fume; silica dust; welding fume; diesel engine fumes; legionella; and blood borne viruses. ORR's occupational cancer page provides links to rail specific guidance on assessment and control of silica dust and on diesel fumes.

Where can I find advice on alternative methods of work to reduce risk of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) and hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS)?

General advice on MSDs and HAVs are on HSE's website. There are case studies on our website that show some alternative options.

Where can I find advice on buying and using the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) and respiratory protective equipment (RPE)?

It is important to select the appropriate PPE and RPE for the work being done and that tight fitting RPE is face fit tested. Advice is given on HSE's RPE and PPE web pages. Your equipment supplier should also be able to advise and may be able to provide face fit testing.

How do I reduce the risks of stress related illnesses?

We provide advice on what rail employers need to do to effectively manage the risks from stress. There are also case studies on addressing stress caused by traumatic incidents pdf icon PDF, 105 Kb and learning to be resilient to stress pdf icon PDF, 37 Kb.

How do I manage asbestos in my work places?

HSE's web page on the duty to manage asbestos explains what you need to do comply with the legal requirements for managing asbestos in premises. We also provide advice and links to other sources of help on our asbestos web page.

Where do I find information on what is required for medical examinations?

The Railway Safety Standards Board is responsible for railway group standards have published two about medical fitness GORT 3451 Train Drivers - Suitability and Medical Fitness Requirements and GORT3452 Train Movement - Medical Fitness Requirements.

Where do I find information on permitted prescription medicines for safety critical workers?

Advice should be sought from your company's chemist or if there is any doubt about the impact of the medicines' on performance the company's medical adviser.


Where do I get advice on a work-related health problem?

Advice can be found on our website and by topic on HSE's website on work-related health. You may also want to speak with an employee representative in your workplace (e.g. a union health and safety representative), or possibly contact the company's Employee Assistance Programme, if there is one.

What are the health risks from asbestos?

Exposure to asbestos can cause a number of serious and fatal lung diseases, including cancer. You can find more information on why asbestos is dangerous on HSE's website.

How do I know where asbestos is when I carry out maintenance work?

HSE's website contains guidance for tradesmen on how to identify asbestos when carrying out maintenance work. HSE's free Beware Asbestos web App also provides simple practical advice for those working with asbestos, including images and how-to guides for materials containing asbestos which might be found in maintenance work.

You should ask to see the asbestos register where you are working in non-domestic premises. Where you are working elsewhere, it can be difficult to identify asbestos, as it is often mixed with other materials. The HSE asbestos image gallery shows a number of common materials that contain asbestos. If you think you may have come across asbestos, stop work immediately, confirm what it is or assume it is asbestos and carry out a risk assessment.

What protection do I need from dust when working?

Your employer should have carried out a COSHH assessment to identify the risk to health from exposure to dust, and the control measures needed to protect you from harm. Where it is not possible to control the dust at source, you may need to wear RPE. For particularly hazardous dusts, for example lead and silica, tighter standards of control are required. HSE's website also gives information on exposure to specific dusts in construction and wood work.

The type of dust you are exposed to will determine the nature and degree of protection you need. Your COSHH assessment should help you decide what control measures you will need. As a general rule you should look at ways of limiting the amount of dust you could make before you start work, and stopping the dust getting into the air. If you still need to wear respiratory protective equipment, see HSE guidance Respiratory protective equipment at work: A practical guide.

Where do I find information on which prescription medicines cannot be used whilst doing safety critical work?
Most companies have arrangements with Chemists On Call for first line checks, they are available 24 hours a day every day, but where there is any doubt about the medicines' effect you should consult the company's medical adviser.