Zonegreen is expanding its product range to improve efficiency and working conditions for drivers and shunters operating freight and train vehicles.

The Sheffield-based firm has launched Points Converter to automate traditional manual levers that alter the course of tracks, which are still used in many depots.

Christian Fletcher, Zonegreen’s technical director, said: "Although automated points are usually installed in new depots, heavy hand operated switches are a common sight at older facilities and put significant physical strain on the driver or shunter.

Accidents at points are also very likely, as they are often located in hazardous external areas with uneven terrain and obstacles, increasing the risk of slips, trips or falls."

Zonegreen’s Points Converter attaches directly to the hand point mechanism, and moves the switch with a hydraulic actuator. Multiple units can be linked and operated from a distance, using a remote handset that enables predefined routes to be programmed in advance. Switch position can then be moved automatically, allowing a train to reach its desired location without physical intervention and exertion.

According to figures compiled by the Rail Safety and Standards Board, injuries to drivers and shunters account for almost one third of all accidents in rail yards and depots, with 68% of these resulting in major injuries. Operating manual points also has occupational health risks, increasing the likelihood of lasting damage to the back, shoulders or neck.

Christian added: "The simplest way to improve safety standards in the rail industry is to remove individuals from the most dangerous situations and our latest technological innovation does just that. Our advanced research and development skills have led to the creation of the Points Converter and we are confident it will help prevent accidents and reduce employee suffering and lost work days."