5637 STEAM




This Risk Assessment concerns the steam locomotive number 5637, an ex-Great Western and British Railways 0-6-2 tank engine. Built during 1925 at the Swindon Railway Works.

 The Risk Assessment applies to the Railway where the locomotive is currently located.

The hazards associated with this steam locomotive are listed below.

1.   Scalding of the body from steam and boiling water.

2.   Hot burns to the body from the fire, pipework and fittings.

3.   Falls from height.

4.   Crushing from the locomotive`s machinery.

5.   Asphyxiation from smoke fumes.

6.   People being run over by the locomotive.

7.   Exploding boiler.

8.   Confined spaces.

All of the above can be fatal or inflict a very serious injury to a person.

Listed below are the steps to be taken to reduce each of the above hazards to an acceptable LOW RISK.

General Comments for all eight hazards

No person must be rostered as a member of the footplate crew, i.e. Driver, Fireman or Trainee Fireman unless they have undergone a period of familiarity training on the locomotive, its equipment and operating systems. Each person must be fully trained for the role they undertake and be certified as “COMPETENT” by the Railway’s Locomotive Superintendent. This certification must be placed in writing and recorded on official paperwork. Refer to “Footplate Crews’ Duties and Responsibilities” dated 15 July 2010.

No person must undertake any form of Examination, Inspection, Maintenance or Fault diagnosis unless they have been certified as competent to do so. Refer to “Locomotive Maintenance” dated 15 July 2010.

Having undertaken a course of training, each person must be able to understand the hazards of the locomotive and reduce the risks to themselves and others to a low and safe level.

(1)       Scalding of the body from steam and hot water

As stated all members of the footplate crew must have undergone a suitable training course on how to operate the locomotive controls and systems.

They must be aware of the hazards associated with waste steam escaping from the injector overflow pipe affecting people on the engine steps or at ground level, making sure no one is in a position to suffer any form of injury from steam, hot water, noise and physical reaction.

Photo: Paul Lockley
Injector overflow pipe

They must be aware of the hazards associated with steam escaping from the cylinder drain cocks. They must make sure no one is in the vicinity of the cocks when steam is applied to the cylinders with the cocks open. There is danger from the hot steam, noise and track debris being thrown at high velocity into the air.

Using the cab slacker pipe to wash the cab floor, the operator must not direct the jet onto any person but only onto the floor or the coal in the bunker. Beware of splashing outside the cab and spraying hot water onto those nearby.

Operating the water level gauge glass try-cocks to determine the level of the boiler water. Ensure that no one is forward of the cocks. Scalding will occur if skin contact is made.

Operating the locomotive steam heating system. Those coupling/uncoupling the engine system to and from the coaches will suffer scalding from steam and hot water should the system be pressurised. The steam supply valve on the manifold must be fully closed and no pressure showing on the system pressure gauge. The operator should wear protective gloves and depress the pipe joint drain valves to ascertain no pressure or hot water is in the system. The footplate crew must be aware at all times that staff are working on the steam heat piping.

There is a hazard present when replenishing the pressurised cylinder and regulator oil reservoir. The reservoir must be isolated from any source of pressure before removing the filler cap. Isolation is achieved by placing the 3-Way valve in the centre closed position and gently opening the filler cap two revolutions to allow any residual pressure to escape. Should this prove ineffective then the two manifold “J” cocks and the condenser 3-way valves must be closed before proceeding further. Refer to “Lubrication Systems and their Requirements” dated 15 July 2010.

All maintenance, examinations and inspections must be carried out only by trained and experienced members of the engineering staff who must be accepted as competent to carry out the work. Read “Locomotive Maintenance” dated 15 July 2010 and “Boiler Washout Plugs, Mudhole Doors and Live Steam Fittings – Fitting/Removal Procedure” dated 15 July 2010.

No boiler or live steam fitting must be removed or worked on, other than in its intended capacity, when the boiler is hot or under pressure. The boiler must be cold and unpressurised, with the regulator in the open position and the pressure gauge reading zero. However, some systems can be isolated from the boiler. Before commencing work on any live steam fitting associated with a hot boiler and known to be under pressure, the responsible person must ensure the fitting and associated pipelines are fully isolated from the boiler and do not contain any pressure, steam or hot water. Break any unions very carefully and slowly.

(2)       Hot burns to the body from the fire, pipework and fittings

All members of the footplate crew and maintenance personnel must be made aware of those items which can burn parts of the body. All piping  and fittings in the cab must be considered a hazard, all contain steam or water at boiler pressure and temperature. To be handled with protective gloves or rags.

The heat that can escape from a large fire when the firehole doors are open is excessive and will cause damage. With the blower shut OFF, large gusts of heat, flame and smoke can suddenly escape from the firebox when the firehole doors are opened. Therefore, were ever possible the blower must be in use to draw the fire down the tubes into the smokebox. If no steam is being created to enable the blower to be used, then great care must be taken when opening the firehole doors. The operator must wear suitable protective clothing such as gloves and overalls, stand well back and using the door handle open the doors slowly. The doors must be closed as soon as the reason for opening them has been satisfied.

On the right hand side of the locomotive the steam heating supply pipe to the front hose is located at running board level. The footplate crew must warn those on the ground near the pipe to be aware of the hazards.

Whilst insulating cladding is fitted around the boiler, the firebox area is very hot and can cause dry burns to those who for any reason need to be on top of the boiler. Should anyone have a need to go on top, then suitable heavy protective blanketing must be used as a source of protection from the heat. Shock reaction can cause people to fall to the ground.

(3)       Falls from height

To fill the water tanks, the footplate crew have to climb onto the tank and open the tank lids. They are to use the proper steps and handrails making sure their footwear and gloves/hand are clean, to enable a safe grip and safe foot position to be achieved.

Photo: Paul Lockley
Water  tank lid

Working on top of the locomotive when it is hot can cause people to fall through shock reaction. Insulation blankets and protective gloves/clothing must be used.

People must only go onto the top of a hot boiler when it is essential to do so.

When the coal bunker is full, there is a danger of any occupant falling to the ground due to the instability of the coal. Personnel must be aware of this and use the cab as a means of support.

Due to the amount of protrusions, tools and fittings on the water tank tops, trip hazards exist with associated falls to the ground. Only personnel on essential tasks are to transit the water tanks and then with caution.

Both the boiler and tank tops can become greasy when wet, clean footwear must be used and personnel are to proceed with caution.

(4)       Crushing from the locomotive`s machinery

Whenever, any person, irrespective of the task, is working on the locomotive, other than when the locomotive is meant to be moving, the handbrake must be in the ON position. This may be supplemented by the engine vacuum brake or the engine properly secured to another rail vehicle with an operational  working handbrake in the ON position,  (should work be needed on the handbrake itself.) 

If other engines and vehicles are moving on the railway, then no one must go under or into the engine unless the engine is protected by being on a piece of track isolated from the rest of the system by  points being set to divert any other moving vehicle away from the locomotive.

If members of the footplate crew are oiling the engine, then their fellow crew members must be made aware of their location and act as guard/safety man.

No one must go between the locomotive and any other vehicle until the locomotive has stopped, brakes applied and authorised by the Driver. They must enter between the vehicles in full view of the Driver, ensuring he is fully aware of their intentions.

Photo: Jim Cobb
Driver John Greathead coupling up

(5)       Asphyxiation from smoke fumes

A steam locomotive by its very nature due to burning coal, creates smoke. To prevent smoke entering the cab or other working spaces the blower must be ON. If this is not possible, all the cab doors and windows must be open to allow fresh air to enter the cab. Smoke fumes contain a variety of noxious elements of which carbon monoxide is but one.  These fumes can cause a lack of concentration and rational thought. It is possible that people can be overcome by fumes and perish.

(6)       People being run over by the locomotive

The Driver, assisted by other crew members must ensure the track, in the direction of movement, is clear of people, materials and litter.

To warn people of engine movements, the whistle must be sounded. If people do not move to safety and respond to the whistle, the Driver shall not proceed until the track is clear.

People operating in and around the locomotive must make their presence and intentions known to the Driver and acknowledge any signals or whistling in a positive and recognisable manner.

(7)       Exploding boiler

This is always fatal to those nearby.

Boilers, fail and explode due to structural failure brought about by neglect or very rarely, component failure.

To prevent this happening the boiler will undergo at regular time periods examinations and inspections by competent persons, who will determine the condition of the boiler and its associated fittings. Any faults or defects will be acted upon and the boiler kept in a serviceable condition. Refer to the current  “Written Scheme of Examination” for this boiler.

Low water levels in the boiler will cause the boiler to fail, the water absorbs the heat of the fire, preventing the firebox from overheating and therefore collapsing causing an explosion. It is essential at all times when a fire is on the grate that water is showing in the water level gauge glass.

To ensure that water is in full view at all times, the footplate crew must ensure that both injectors are fully serviceable and that they feed water into the boiler and that the water level gauge glass is accurately reading the water level.  Should any of these items be found to be unserviceable and the true level of the water becomes uncertain or disappears out of sight in the gauge glass, then as a matter of urgency the fire must be removed from the firebox or extinguished immediately.

Should a firetube or superheater element fail this will also create a similar situation to an exploding boiler, causing death or serious injury to those nearby. An escape of high pressure steam from these tubes will drastically upset the steaming of the engine, normally destroying the smokebox vacuum and blowing the fire off the grate into the cab area. Both the driver and fireman, on starting their turn of duty must examine all tube ends in both the firebox and smokebox for either water or steam leaks. Should any be noticed, they are to be reported to their immediate superior.

(8)       Confined Spaces.

Do not enter the two water side tanks or the coal bunker water tank unless they are empty of water, well ventilated by fresh air by having all their panels and filling/drain  points open. A second person must act as safetyman, being of a physical size to be able to enter the tanks and render assistance if necessary. Adequate lighting must be provided.

Do not enter the firebox unless the boiler is cold and all the ash and fire debris has been cleaned from the grate. The firehole doors must be open at all times, as must the ashpan damper doors. Adequate lighting must be provided and a safetyman present.

Do not enter the smokebox if the fire is lit, smoke is present in dense quantities, unless it is necessary to carry out any functional checks. Good lighting is essential as is a safetyman. Wear protective overalls and gloves. Hot surfaces abound. Remove the door retaining bar for easy access and exit.

Photo: Chris Hopkins
Alex squeezing into the inspection hole in the bunker water  tank




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