Maintaining the highest level of health and safety is crucial for any rail construction project and to do so requires cooperation from everyone involved. Working with partners that share the same health and safety ethos can provide the basis for long term relationships that allow improved efficiency and greater safety in all operations.

Rail construction sites are exceptional in a number of ways, whether it is vital track maintenance to keep the network running smoothly or the building of new lines and stations to improve the passenger experience. In the wider construction industry, very few projects compare in scale to the likes of Crossrail or HS2. Also, upgrade or replacement work is made more complex by the need to keep the train network running, often requiring work to be carried out at night, over weekends or during Easter and Christmas holidays. Uniquely, contractors in the sector are required to work in remote locations with limited road access and also in city centres where the movement of people and materials is difficult.

These complexities mean that safety will always be one of the major concerns. For example, one of the central concepts on the Crossrail project is that safety is not referred to as a priority because priorities change. Instead it is one of the core values on the project backed by the idea that all harm is preventable. As such contractors are often selected for major rail projects based in part on their health and safety culture and policies. This is something that should be followed throughout the supply chain, especially when it comes to the supply of materials, as if not managed correctly this has the potential to put drivers, workers and even members of the public at risk.

There are several factors that must be considered when choosing a distributor partner for rail projects. These include how they work to minimise the onsite hazards of deliveries, specific rail sector experience and how complexity of supply and delivery operations can be minimised.


The delivery and unloading of materials can present a number of hazards if carried out incorrectly, especially on tight and congested sites. These include the risk of workers being struck by moving or falling objects, falls from height and injuries caused by handling, lifting or carrying materials. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) the most common cause of serious (specified) injury on construction sites is a fall from height, which includes falls from vehicles. In fact, the HSE estimates that up to 90% of falls from vehicles are from below head height and 70% of these injuries are sustained by someone other than the driver of the vehicle.

At Keyline Civils Specialist, we have worked hard to eliminate this risk where we can. For example, the loading of the vehicle is carefully planned to make sure the driver can keep his feet on the ground and does not need to work at height. We do this by pre-slinging the loads and through the use of specially developed attachments that allow the delivery to be completed swiftly and safely without anyone needing to climb onto the vehicle bed.

The recent rapid changes in work patterns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the need to be innovative and flexible to adapt to changing health and safety needs. We are pleased to have been able to keep branches open and maintained deliveries throughout to continue supplying not only key rail work, but also hospital, school, roads, water and power projects across the country.


Due to the unique nature of rail projects it is important to choose a supplier that understands the challenges and requirements of working on these sites. Businesses with no rail project experience, often will not be able to appreciate the real complexities. This lack of experience can have an impact on the day to day operations of the site. We are proud to have been involved with some of the UK’s most high-profile rail projects including the Transpennine Upgrade, East West Rail, the Highland mainline upgrade and most recently, HS2.

It is also important to ensure that a potential supply chain partner is Railway Industry Supplier Qualification Scheme (RISQS) compliant and can demonstrate their commitment to vehicle safety, efficiency and environmental protection through accreditations such as the Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS).

While some standards may be a requirement of working on major projects, such as the minimum FORS Silver required for any HS2 sites, it can also provide contractors with the confidence that suppliers have invested in making their operations safer. For example, at Keyline we have invested heavily in driver training and ensure that their knowledge is kept up to date with a requirement to complete a number of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) courses each year. We have also implemented a driver incentive scheme that has delivered:

  • 18% reduction in accident rates.
  • Increased the miles per gallon of vehicles by 14%.
  • 7000 fewer hours idling.
  • 1226 tonne reduction in CO2 emissions.

 All of which have led to our FORS Gold accreditation, which is unique among merchants and demonstrates our commitment to best practice.


A further factor to consider is how safety can be improved by reducing the number of different vehicles that have to make deliveries. One of the simplest ways of doing this is by partnering with a supplier that can provide a large number of the products required.

At Keyline, we have the widest range of core and specialist products for permanent way, embankments, tunnelling, stations, platforms and car parks. We work with trusted suppliers including Tensar, Terram, Lafarge Cement, Stanton Bonna, Wavin, FP McCann Cubis, TTS, Anderton Concrete, BCM and Polypipe. As the leading civils merchant, we also have a wide range of other products such as drainage systems, access chambers and concrete repair materials.

We can supply projects anywhere in the country through our nationwide network of branches but we also have regional rail centres of excellence in Glasgow, Leeds and Northfleet in Kent. Due to the all-hours nature of the sector we ordinarily operate a 24-hour emergency response service. Although this is currently not possible due to COVID-19, we plan to have this service operational again soon and in the meantime our teams are working hard to ensure all requirements are met.

Rail projects have a range of unique features and requirements and due to the complexity of many sites health and safety is a key issue. Choosing the right supplier can help reduce the risk and make obtaining the required materials simpler. Working with the same supplier across many different projects over a number of years can allow your ways of working to be more closely aligned and on-going improvements made.

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Registered Office: Keyline Civils Specialist Ltd, 50 Mauchline Street, Glasgow, G5 8HQ
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