Lookout Operated Warning Systems (LOWS) have been used in the UK rail infrastructure for decades as a means of providing additional safety for rail workers on the track. The system involves having a designated lookout, usually a colleague of the workers on the track, who is stationed in a location where they can see approaching trains and warn the workers of any danger.
The Advantages of the LOWS system
One of the main advantages of LOWS is that it is a simple system that requires minimal equipment and can be easily implemented on the rail network. Unlike more complex automated systems, such as See-Automatic Track Warning Systems (SATWS), LOWS does not require expensive technology and can be operated by personnel with appropriate training.
Another advantage of LOWS is that it provides an additional layer of safety for workers on the track; however, human error can still occur. Having a lookout in place ensures an additional set of eyes on the track, which can help prevent accidents and incidents.
LOWS is a highly flexible system that adapts to different situations and environments. For example, if there are areas of the track where automated systems cannot be used, such as tunnels or other confined spaces, LOWS can be used to provide warnings and ensure the safety of workers.
The Disadvantages of the LOWS system
One of the main disadvantages of LOWS is that it is a manual system that relies on human vigilance. This means there is a risk of human error, which can result in accidents or incidents. For example, if the lookout fails to spot an approaching train or provides a warning too late, workers on the track may not have enough time to move to a place of safety.
Another disadvantage of LOWS is that it can be difficult to ensure that all workers on the track are aware of the warnings the lookout provides. This is particularly true when multiple workers are on track who may be spread out over a large distance. In these situations, it can be challenging to ensure that all workers receive the warning and move to a place of safety.
Finally, LOWS can be a time-consuming system to operate, particularly when there are long track possession periods. In these situations, having multiple lookouts along the track may be necessary, which can require additional personnel and increase the cost of the work.
In conclusion, LOWS is a simple and flexible system that provides additional safety for workers on the track. While there are some disadvantages to using LOWS, such as the risk of human error and the difficulty of ensuring that all workers receive the warning, these can be mitigated through proper training and communication. Ultimately, the decision to use LOWS or other track warning systems will depend on various factors, including the specific requirements of the work being carried out and the level of risk involved.