With the continued development of Britain’s railways, and electrification of the lines becoming a topic of much discussion  within the political playing field, the onus on safety critical equipment has never been more important.

This added emphasis on the safety of OLE engineers is, of course, good news. However, it raises an interesting question. How can one be sure that the equipment used is of the highest quality and can therefore provide the highest level of safety?

Safety by design

The first step in the manufacture of high quality safety equipment is the design process. Take, for example, P&B Weir Electrical’s S9B line end earthing clamp. This was designed in 1969 as the first clamp to adhere to a National Grid specification for substation earths, and with a proven track record of 46 years of service, the original design has only undergone minor enhancements such as a spring loaded jaw for ease of application.

As a result, the S9B has provided the requirement for failsafe OLE earths across Network Rail lines for decades, and is now commonly recognised as the industry standard.

The second factor to take into consideration during the manufacturing process is the quality of materials. An example of the importance of using only the highest standard of materials came to light from a customer who explained that they had purchased a defective product from an outside source.

The product in question was a set of bolts that had sheared under strain, which had understandably given caused concern. Experience has shown that, although products appear to be of genuine quality, often the materials used can be produced without sufficient quality control and documented evidence of proven performance and testing. In the instance of the rogue bolts, this turned out to be exactly the case.

Controlled manufacture

Following product type testing, technical submission and review, manufacturing can take place. During this process, stringent quality assurance tests should be performed in order to ensure the products maximum durability and performance capabilities are achieved. The J117 clamp is used across the entire UK Rail network as part of long earths or short circuiting straps, and like P&B Weir’s full rail product catalogue, holds Network Rail’s PADS approval codes.

In the manufacturing process, the J117 undergoes no less than forty-four separate quality assurance tests including mechanical, visual and instrument tests at different stages of product fabrication. It is this fine attention to detail that guarantees the final product complies to the high standards required  when safeguarding the wellbeing of  linesmen across the network.

Ultimately, the decision to purchase safety critical equipment for isolation/earthing should be based on trust in the manufacturer, never on price alone. Suppliers will always vie to be the most competitive in the market, at times perhaps jeopardising the integrity of their products. P&B Weir takes pride in providing cost effective solutions, but a commitment to designing and manufacturing high-quality safety equipment that linesmen can depend on is its highest priority.