Companies have human error reduction training courses that aim to encourage accident prevention. The collective types of human error are responsible for 90% of all workplace accidents. Some accidents are minor and others major, but the word major pales in comparison with one accident that happened in Australia recently. It was the result of extreme attention failures with disastrous implications.
The minerals, oil, and gas company BHP had a large train full of iron ore en route to a port in Northwestern Australia. On the way, the driver decided to make a stop to inspect one of the cars he thought there was an issue with. While he was checking on the problematic car, his problems went from bad to worse.
“While the driver was outside of the locomotive, the train commenced to run away,” reported the Australian Transportation Safety Bureau.
With no one on board, the runaway train traveled 57 miles over the course of 50 minutes before it had to be deliberately derailed to stop it. The train consisted of four locomotives and 268 wagons loaded to the brim with iron ore as it traveled at an average speed of 68 miles per hour without anyone on it. Once it was purposely derailed, authorities estimated it would take a week to repair 1.5 kilometers of railroad track that had been destroyed. Nevermind the train itself. You can see aftermath footage of hundreds and hundreds of feet of crumpled up, mangled metal littering the Australian desert.
“Usually, once the driver leaves the train, the brakes are on, there are procedures for that. There would have been a procedure in place to make sure the train didn’t move off,” said Phillip Barker, owner of Rail Safety Consulting Australia.
Attention failures of this magnitude are certainly rare, but it gained enough attention that the cause of the runaway train is being investigated. Fortunately, no one was injured. The train itself was, but no human beings were harmed as a result of the driver’s mistake.
The fate of the driver and their career are uncertain, but he’s definitely facing some serious inquiry after an extremely costly mistake.