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We ask the rail safety experts… Part 7

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In preparation for this year’s Rail Safety Summit, we sat down with leading figures from the rail safety industry and asked them a series of pressing questions about safety practices within the rail industry.

Today’s question is:

Do we value and trust competent rail workers to the extent that they deserve?


Willie Baker, Emergency Incident Consultant:

Not always, and when we do it is not always consistent, but before people start beating themselves up let us remember that the rail industry is not alone in this important aspect of employee recognition, and it sure is a lot better than it used to be, so let’s keep on getting better and better.

Organisations that have the happiest work force are also the most profitable. Fact!

Seamus Scallon, Safety Director, UK Rail, FirstGroup:

Trust and integrity is a critical factor in defining positive relationships with the workforce and it its something that can often feature heavily in the findings of safety climate surveys.

The answer to this question will be dependent on the organisation’s approach to this value, but in my opinion the development of trust is the most critical component in creating a robust safety culture.

Steve Diksa, Assurance Services Director, Bridgeway Consulting:

Competence levels are far too variable across the industry so the professional, high calibre staff often get tarred with the same brush as the poor quality staff.

Unfortunately, I still think that the ‘them and us’ culture still exists in many parts of the industry, with neither side trusting the other at times.

Positive working relationships and outputs can be achieved if we ALL once again learn to trust each other; ultimately the Workforce, Network Rail, The ORR, Contractors, Trade Unions and Agencies.

Catherine Behan, Head of HS&E Capital Programmes, Transport for London:

No; particularly when they are external suppliers. As an industry our default position seems to be to take a heavy policing role.

Taking a risk-based approach to our monitoring activity incentivises others to perform and supports value for money delivery as we are not doing something that we’ve already paid someone else to do.

Steve Enright, Head of Safety and Operational Standards, Southern:

Here at Southern I believe that we work very hard to do just that.

Dr Liesel Von Metz, HM Inspector of Railways:

Not always. Everyone in the industry has a part to play in delivering safety and performance, and it’s important that as a regulator, ORR works to ensure the industry supports and empowers all rail workers within a positive safety culture.

With the move away from an overly-proscriptive standards regime to one that is based on competent people making sensible risk-based decisions, in future it will be even more vital to make sure we fully value competent people.

Of course, the question of what constitutes competence, and how we recognise it, is a whole issue in itself.

Christian Fletcher, Director, Zonegreen:

The people working in the depot every day such as the shunters and the maintenance teams are often best placed to report back on safety issues.

By giving them the environment to report incidents, near misses or close calls and then acting on that and doing something, you create a safe working environment.

Tomorrow’s ‘We ask the rail safety experts’ will see our experts answer this question:

Many train-crew, contractors and agency staff still travel large distances to work. Does this increase the risk of accidents and what could be done to reduce the travelling? 

To read yesterday’s interview click here

The Rail Safety Summit is taking place on April 19th 2012 in Loughborough.

For more information, please visit www.railsafetysummit.com



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