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The RMT rail union, the TUC and the Labour party are calling for a ban on zero-hours contract workers on UK railways after investigators found fatigue was a contributory factor in a fatal accident last year.
A Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) report into the death of a worker last November near Purley in Surrey found that the unnamed man, a 37-year-old from Upminster, Essex, had been fatigued after little sleep between night shifts, and did not realise the passenger train was on the track directly behind him when he heard its approach and horn.
According to the Guardian, the man was on the track alone because he was covering up for his brother, who himself was too tired to do the night shift after daytime delivery work.
Investigators found that the incident might have resulted in two fatalities instead of one had the brother also been at work.
The man's brother had worked 17 hours as a delivery driver on the weekend before the Monday night rail shift and was scheduled to work another 60 hours during the week.
Vital Human Resources, which had engaged the brothers on zero-hours contracts work, said the practice of ghosting, where workers fake attendance, was not common, though this was not borne out by witnesses who told investigators it was a regular occurrence.
The report said that Vital had “not sufficiently identified and addressed the risk of fatigue among zero-hours contracted staff”, nor “identified or prevented staff absenting themselves from work without being detected”.
The RAIB's report criticised “Victorian” methods of protection and the fatigue among zero-hours contract staff. RMT general secreta