There is a serious need to improve the safety of level crossings and risk assessment by the Finnish Defence Forces
The Safety Investigation Authority’s investigation of the accident between a VR rail bus and a high mobility terrain vehicle of the Defence Forces on 26 October 2017 in Skogby, Raasepori, has been completed. Three conscripts and one rail bus passenger were killed in the accident. Three of the conscripts were seriously injured and two were slightly injured. Some rail bus passengers suffered minor injuries.
The Safety Investigation Authority issues four safety recommendations in order to avoid similar accidents and to improve the inadequate safety levels of level crossings.
The Safety Investigation Authority recommends that the Finnish Transport Agency and the Finnish Transport Safety Agency ensure that resources are allocated to improving the safety of, or removing, the most dangerous level crossings. Skogby's level crossing was particularly dangerous due to the angle of the track and road and the lack of warning devices. From the driver's position in the high mobility terrain vehicle, it was almost impossible to see the train approaching at an angle from the rear. There are still several, similar dangerous level crossings in Finland, the safety of which has not been improved or which have been left in place. Improving the safety of level crossings must be taken seriously and the required resources must be reserved for this.
The Safety Investigation Authority recommends that the Defence Forces develop the risk assessment of exercises in order to identify the actual risks and name those which are identified. The risks involved in crossing the Skogby level crossing and highway 25 were not identified and named as a risk. The Defence Forces have developed their risk assessment with regard to exercises, but this is still work in progress. The current risk assessment form does not encourage naming the identified risks, but these are evaluated by risk type e.g. ‘land or sea traffic accidents’. If the risks of an exercise are not identified and designated, it is more difficult to manage them and warn the troops on exercise.
The Safety Investigation Authority recommends that the Finnish Defence Forces develop seatbelts in the cargo space seating modules so that they are easier to use, and enhance their monitoring of the use of seatbelts. Seatbelts in the cargo space seating modules of the Defence Force’s high mobility terrain vehicles are difficult to use for soldiers in combat gear. In addition, the use of seatbelts is not effectively monitored. However, there are guidelines on the use of seatbelts and the monitoring of such use. The personal injuries involved in the accident were serious, partly due to the fact that the conscripts in the high mobility terrain vehicle did not use seatbelts.
The Safety Investigation Authority recommends that the Ministry of the Interior ensure that an operational area command (OAC) is set up by the public authorities in the case of long-term or exceptional multi-authority tasks. An operational area command is not necessarily established close to the scene of an accident by the authorities, even in the case of major accidents. The threshold for establishing such a command should be lower. A public authority operational area command is the only effective arrangement for managing a situation involving multiple authorities/actors.
Veli-Pekka Nurmi, Executive Director, docent, tel. +358 (0)295 150 701
Esko Värttiö, Chief Rail Safety Investigator, tel. +358 295 150 708
Sakari Lauriala, Head of Communications, tel. +358 295 150 714