Lookout men

The lookout man is responsible for the safety of the people entrusted to him. He is appointed by the safety supervisor and has the following tasks:

  • Take up the location specified by the safety supervisor.
  • Check the functionality of the signalling equipment prior to the start of work and maintain it in working order.
  • Give timely warning signals as determined by the safety supervisor so that the people who are being looked after can leave the track area without pressure, and taking into account the need to move machines and equipment out of the way.
  • Repetition of the warning signals, as determined by the safety supervisory or the giver of the signal.
  • Immediate clearing of the work track, as soon as it is apparent that warning signals have not been heeded.
  • Giving the emergency stop signal to the train driver, if the evacuation of the track area has not been done quickly.
  • Initiate the clearing of the track work site if the warning to the people working on the track cannot be given at the right time because of bad visibility.
  • Acknowledge the receipt of a warning signal.

A responsible task

If there is no automatic Gang Warning System (GWS), lookout men will be appointed to protect the work site. They have a responsible task. The life of all employees in the track area depends on the attention and the correct behaviour of the lookout man. Hence he/she must always make sure that the warning signals given by him are safely received and promptly followed. 

Requirements for lookout men

If a contractor requests a lookout man, only persons who meet the following criteria should be selected:

  • Age limit varies by country.
  • Suitability in terms of physical and mental fitness.
  • Meet the eligibility requirements.
  • Proof of qualification, instruction about railway operation in the appropriate safety area.
  • Expectation that the transferred tasks can be performed reliably.

Equipment for lookout men

Multi-tone signal horn

The lookout man must carry this horn with him even if the signals are given with the loud volume horn.  If this cannot be used, the lookout man can warn the workers with the multi-tone signal horn.

Signal flag

The lookout man can give a circular signal in emergency situations with the flag and run towards the train in order to stop it.

Hand lamp

In the dark (or if the lookout man is no longer able to see) or when working in a tunnel, the lookout man requires a hand lamp. If several lookout men are used, instead of a hand sign to confirm that a given signal was acknowledged, a bright white hand lamp is used. The bright red hand lamp is dimmed by the lookout man. If there is danger ahead, the lookout man runs towards the train or gives a circular signal with the hand lamp.


A correctly set watch is used in order to be able to produce a time check with the line traffic controller.

Square key

The lookout man has to have a square key to open the telephone box in case it would be necessary to use the line telephone to talk to the line traffic controller. The square key is also used to get in touch with the line traffic controller, e.g. when an emergency call needs to be made.

In order to maintain the functionality of this warning equipment, a tool is needed, e.g., to change the battery or to change the pressure gas cylinder. If the warning equipment must be put out of service the lookout man has to organise the clearing of the track and the movement of the staff into a safe area.

High visibility clothing

Lookout men must wear high visibility clothing, such as a safety vest, although they should not stand in the danger area of the track. Each lookout man must be aware that the life of all the workers depends on his attentiveness and his correct behaviour. 

Therefore, each lookout man must always make sure that the workers entrusted to him obey the group warning signals immediately.