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Non-technical skills

Image of the key skills involved in competency

​​​​Non-technical skills  (NTS) are social, cognitive and personal skills that can enhance the way you or your staff carry out technical skills, tasks and procedures. By developing these skills, people in safety-critical roles can learn how to deal with a range of different situations.

There is a growing appreciation within the rail industry of the importance of NTS. They form an important part of competence and competence management because they can improve the management operational risk by helping to manage threats and errors when they occur. They can also help safety critical staff to be aware of their own performance and to how to improve. The diagram to the right shows how NTS form and integral part of competence, alongside someone’s technical and functional skills.

Why are non-technical skills important?

NTS lifecycle

There are seven NTS that are important to the role of the driver which include Situational Awareness, Conscientiousness and Communications. This is the full list of Non-Technical Skills, with some background information on them.

The RSSB Human Factors team also support the development and integration of NTS and have recently published a guide on the steps necessary to successfully integrate NTS into your organisation.

New NTS training materials for non-driver roles

To help the industry include roles other than drivers in their NTS training, RSSB has been working on new NTS training materials for. These roles include:

  • dispatchers
  • guards
  • shunters
  • fitters and engineers
  • train controllers.

These have now been completed and can be accessed through the RSSB extranet – instructions for registering and downloading are available here.

These have been designed as standalone training materials, not a training course in themselves. So you can either integrate the materials into your existing NTS training or other safety training or briefing.

Each role has a Facilitator Guide to accompany it, which describes the purpose of the materials and instructions on their use, as well as model answers, and which NTS are represented within each set of materials. These guides can be found within each folder on the extranet. If you have any questions or need any help then get in touch at

Non-technical skills support for trainers and rail companies

RSSB provides NTS support to our members in a number of ways including providing NTS 'Train The Trainer courses'.

Find out more about the course and upcoming dates on the NTS awareness and integration webpage.

  • NTS good practice forums – for those trainers who have been on the NTS course
  • Single company briefings – if you would like us to come and speak to your company about any aspect of NTS – building engagement or a business case, training, integration into CMS, or anything else related to NTS, then contact us by contacting

Development, piloting, and evaluation of the non-technical skills training course (T869)

RSSB’s NTS work started with the T869 research project entitled ‘Non-Technical Skills’.

The aim of this research project was to design, produce and pilot a suite of course materials for training and integrating NTS within TOCs and FOCs. The project provides industry with:

  • A clear description of the generic skills required of safety critical staff to help them anticipate, identify and mitigate against threats and errors as part of their role
  • NTS training materials for front line staff and their managers
  • A method for identifying NTS, mapping to operational roles, developing and evaluating training, and integrating NTS into competence management systems.
  • Positive safety benefits - if NTS are trained and reinforced and appropriately integrated into competence management systems, in time this should result in improved operational performance and a reduction in incidents and accidents.

The strategy for the research was for the materials to be adopted and adapted as appropriate by rail industry companies. This can be done by attending the NTS Train The Trainer course. Read the final reports from the research project External link. You will need to register for SPARK to access these research materials.

Mapping NTS and creating case studies for other roles (T1064)

While T869 was focused primarily at the role of the driver, the T1064 project has recently started. The scope of this project is to create additional case studies and training materials for other safety critical, operational (non-driver) roles. These can then be used with the existing NTS materials to expand the applicability of the NTS training and competence management beyond the role of the driver. If you would like more information on this work then please contact

The RSSB Human Factors team are here to support any non-technical skills training, integration or awareness building that you are undertaking so please get in touch with if you would like any help or advice.

This document is hosted on SPARK


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