Taking Safe Decisions

Taking Safe Decisions provides guidance on aspects of good practice on how to take decisions that are properly grounded in risk-based evidence, and that protect the safety of rail industry staff, passengers and others, satisfy the law, and respect the interests of stakeholders, whilst remaining commercially sound.

Every policy, investment or operational decision taken by the GB railway industry impacts safety in some way.  Keeping people safe costs money, but that should be embraced as part of a company’s business planning, and safety should be thought of as an integral part of a business, not an add on feature.  It is therefore vital that decision-making processes consider safety effectively.

Taking Safe Decisions helps your organisation take safety into account when it makes decisions.  It describes what to consider to be able to take rational, equitable and defensible decisions.  It is structured around the following key questions:

  • What are your legal responsibilities for safety risk?
  • When should decisions be taken?
  • Who should take decisions?
  • How should decisions be taken?

The Taking Safe Decisions framework outlines the stages in planning and taking safe decisions when contemplating a change.  A change might be in response to a safety concern raised by an organisation’s monitoring activities, or it might be triggered by commercial reasons, such as the desire to improve customer experience, the need to renew infrastructure or rolling stock, or changes to improve operational efficiencies.

The framework links together:

  • Monitoring - Is my operation safe or might I need to make a change?
  • Selecting options for change - What (if anything) should I change, and can it be done safely?
  • Implementing a change safely - How do I make sure the change is safe?
  • Monitoring the change - checking you made the right decision.

The Taking Safe Decisions Framework brings together the Common Safety Method for Monitoring, and the Common Safety Method for Risk Evaluation and Assessment (CSM RA).  Further information on application of CSM RA and the CSM RA Guidance Note are available from the Management of Change page.  Additional guidance on safety-related cost-benefit analysis is also available.

The Taking Safe Decisions principles were first developed and published in 2008 following a programme of research and industry consultation, and updated in 2014.  The principles have been used to support safety decision making processes in the GB rail industry since then.  The 2019 version of the main document maintains and upholds the original scope and principles whilst refining and providing clarification on issues based on user feedback and industry consultation.

It is for all people involved in activities that maintain and improve safety, including risk practitioners, safety specialists, safety engineers, project engineers, operational managers, senior managers, leadership teams and the board.

There are a number of worked example case studies that illustrate the practical application of the principles set out in Taking Safe Decisions.


Taking Safe Decisions is a live and dynamic set of principles.  We would therefore encourage readers to discuss and test the new version in your organisations, and feedback on experience and use of the principles, and suggestions for future materials to help make Taking Safe Decisions more useful.  If you would like to provide comments or suggestions please email by 31 January 2020.

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