Monday, 2 March 2015

GO/RT 3279 Railway Group Standard

These details are correct as of 27th May 2014. If in doubt search for GORT3279 Issue 8 dated 1.3.2014 which currently specifies the latest amendments to the standard.

You may be carrying out maintenance work on track, where no trains are running – called 'green zone working'. However, work is undertaken on active railways, during day and night, and under different weather conditions. In this 'red zone working', the dangers are very real and it is important that the highest levels of visibility are maintained.

The European standard of high visibility garments BS EN ISO 20471:2013 (a recently updated version of EN 471:2003 + A1:2007) permits a small number of fluorescent background materials, the railway standard specifies one colour only -  Orange.

But this is not just any orange. No orange high visibility garment without the GO/RT 3279 specification is certified for use on UK railways on the line-side or on or near the line.

The garments need to exceed the requirements in EN ISO 20471 (EN 471) for both the minimum area of the orange background material and retro-reflective tape used in the garment. Also, the orange colour must meet the highest level of photometric performance criteria that is specified within the standard. Hence the products must be tested and certified to this standard. These garments must also meet with the requirements for Class 2 garments as set out in BS EN ISO 20471.  If in doubt, request a copy of the certification from your PPE supplier. These should be available on demand. There is an exception for mini-vests ‘Where duties require the use of high visibility clothing, but the nature of the work does not involve possible obscuring of the high visibility clothing, a high visibility mini-vest having a reduced area of visible material, conforming to section A.4 of this Appendix, is permitted’.

On or near the line is defined as ‘within 3 meters of the nearest rail of any line and on the line itself’. ‘On a platform this applies to only the part of the platform within 1.25 meters of the platform edge and only when an engineering or technical activity is taking place’.

Line-side is defined as ‘the area between the boundary fence and the point that is called ‘on or near the line’, and where someone would be within view of the driver of an approaching train or movement’.

Additional PPE that is mandatory to be worn ‘on or near the line or on the lineside is:                   Safety helmet (these should be supplied with a chinstrap where there is a danger of them falling off) – that complies with BS EN 397. Bump caps complying with BS EN 812: 1998 do not meet the requirements for safety helmets, but may be worn as an alternative to a safety helmet by those engaged in working on rail vehicles below sole-bar level.

Safety footwear that complies with BS EN ISO 20345 that provides support to the ankles and includes mid-sole protection and had a covered toe cap. Rigger boots do not meet these requirements for ankle protection.

There are exemptions for certain operations and these are listed in Network Rail reference NR/SP/OHS/021 dated February 2007. If in doubt then refer to this publication.

Other exemptions may be granted by an application to Network Rail Head of Occupational Health and Safety for approval and shall be accompanied by a supporting risk assessment.

Myth Buster:

Some myths, probably by suppliers of GO/RT 3279 clothing, have suggested that there are various additional requirements which need to be met in order to sell more of their own products over their competitors. Most of it is made-up so we just want to clarify a few points.

Printing / Logos:

The GO/RT standard states that the visible materials of the garment must not be compromised by the addition of company names or logos. This does not mean that no logos or prints are allowed. It means be sensible - that the area covered by the prints must not affect the purpose of the garment which is to be noticed. Black, reflective and coloured printing is allowed.

The current wording in the standard (NR/L2/OHS/021, Issue 3) on this is:

‘The outer layer of the upper body clothing shall be clearly marked between the vertical retro-reflective bands’ (silver stripes) ‘on the back with the name or logo of the individual’s Sentinal sponsor or other name or logo agreed with Network Rail (e.g. project, sponsor’s parent company or trade association). This may be in colour or black and either screen printed or incorporated within a panel, which may be retro-reflective.’

Retro reflective stripes above the knee on trousers:

Some of our customers have stated that they have information from a reliable source that Network Rail is planning to change their standard/policy on work trousers to state one band must be above the knee. Not true, the minimum standard required by Network Rail for work trousers to be worn  is BS EN471: 2003 Class 1 and GO/RT3279.

As from 1st January 2009, all maintenance staff going on or near the line must wear all orange PPE. This was referred to as the ‘All Orange PPE initiative’. The move to all orange meant the addition of orange high visibility trousers (or over-trousers) to the  PPE requirement. The instruction applied to all staff and contractors who work for maintenance or who come to work in maintenance worksites. This included anyone from outside of maintenance but working under the protection of a maintenance COSS. This also includes Supervisors and Managers.

As an additional note – shorts are not permissible.

Hoods on garments – should they be tear-off?

Is there a guide for wearing / not wearing hoods on waterproof or any other GO/RT3279 garments? There is nothing mandatory with reference to having or not having a hood permanently or temporarily attached to a garment. Obvious safety concerns would mean that if you were working on or near the line then a tear-off hood would be advisable to take into account any snagging issues. Advice / comments from Network Rail when querying this issue in 2009 stated ‘No hoods to be worn. We would much prefer garments not to have them at all, detachable or not.’ However, this is NOT written in the GO/RT3279 standard at the time of writing.

Thermal balaclavas:

Unlike hoods, Balaclava’s with Mesh Ear apertures  are permitted , advice from Network Rail in 2010 stated that the reason for mesh ears (in balaclavas) is to make sure the product cannot prevent the wearer from hearing a warning given by a lookout or a train driver for example. It is also worth noting that as Balaclava’s are not an item of PPE so they do not have to meet any colour specification.

Waterproof / breathability of foul weather clothing:

In addition to GO/RT 3279, foul weather high visibility jackets and over-trousers must achieve the standard of BS EN 343 class 3 for water vapour resistance and water penetration.

General recommendations by Network Rail:

Any employee or contractor of Network Rail who goes on or near the line or on the lineside shall be required to wear full-length trousers to mitigate against the risks from lineside vegetation and the consequences of slips, trips and falls.

Ideally trousers should be high-visibility and meet the requirements of BS EN471: 2003 and GO/RT3279, however this is not mandatory.

Upper body clothing with full-length sleeves is also preferable, to protect against risks from vegetation and of sunburn, but is not mandatory. However, sleeveless garments, such as singlets or vests, are prohibited.

Sunglasses may be worn, but tinted lenses should be avoided where there is a requirement to distinguish colours accurately. Photochromic (e.g. Reactolite) lenses should be worn with caution; whilst they darken rapidly in bright conditions, they take much longer to clear in dark conditions.
Any PPE identified as necessary through work activity risk assessments shall be provided and used as required by the safe system of work and working instructions. This includes, for example, hearing protection, eye protection, gloves, etc.


Employers: shall be responsible for providing their employees with any PPE (including foul weather clothing) which is required by the nature of their job. This shall be provided free of charge and shall be renewed free of charge as and when necessary to ensure that it remains effective in use.

Site managers: shall be responsible for providing any PPE over and above the generic requirements for going on or near the line which may be required on that site. For example, on a particularly noisy worksite, the site manager shall be responsible for providing adequate hearing protection. In addition, site managers shall be responsible for ensuring that any PPE or workwear required for particular locations or tasks is used by employees as required.

Employees: are responsible for using PPE and workwear as required, for keeping it clean and maintaining it in a reasonable condition and for requesting its replacement when it becomes ineffective.

The NR PPE and work wear specification, NR/SP/OHS/021 can be found on the Network Rail Safety Central website.