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Leading health and safety on Britain's railway

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Leading health and safety on Britain's railway

Ann Mills

Head of Health and Safety Management

Britain's railway system is one of the safest and most intensively used rail networks in the world. Our good safety performance has been achieved by highly competent people, by close co-operation between teams and companies, the adoption of advanced health and safety management systems, and the effective application of technology.

This performance is commendable. We have accomplished it at the same time as record numbers of passengers and freight customers are using the rail system, and an increasing number of major investment programmes are being implemented.

However the rate of safety improvement has slowed over the past few years. We know there are increasing challenges ahead. Growth in passenger numbers and freight volumes are expected to continue, and there are increasing expectations to demonstrate value for money. At the same time, our awareness of the importance of managing the health and wellbeing of all rail colleagues is growing.

The rail health and safety strategy – Leading Health and Safety on Britain's railway - has been developed by leaders of the rail industry to provide a framework for the collaborative improvement of health and safety performance on the railway. This strategy is owned by the Rail Delivery Group.

Cross-industry groups and committees act as focus groups for our research, products and services and enable the industry to act on intelligence, and coordinate industry-wide activities to manage the 12 key risks identified in the strategy. This involves a new Collaboration Framework.

The System Safety Risk Group (SSRG) promotes industry collaboration on safety issues aligned to the risk areas in Leading Health and Safety on Britain's railway. The Health and Wellbeing Policy Group (HWPG) promotes industry collaboration on health and wellbeing issues. The diagram below shows these relationships. You can click on the image to open a PDF of the diagram which has hyperlinks to the Risk Groups we manage. You can find out more about these Risk Groups on our Groups and Committees page.

SSRG and HWPG in context diagram

Duty holder endorsement and adoption is essential if the strategy is going to be successfully realised, below are the companies who confirmed their endorsement.

Monitoring the strategy

The strategy needs input from cross-industry groups and committees, as both focus groups for our research, products and services but also the means for industry to act on intelligence, and coordinate industry-wide activities to manage the 12 key risks identified in the strategy. This will involve a new Collaboration Framework.

Leading health and wellbeing on Britain's railway image

Progress report

December 2018 progress report

RSSB publishes a quarterly progress report, with advice and guidance from industry, to give an overview of industry progress in implementing the Leading Health and Safety on Britain’s Railway strategy. The report aims to:

  • Share information
  • Provoke discussion
  • Elicit feedback
  • Help monitor cross-industry activity
  • Improve the industry’s safety, health and wellbeing performance

This monitoring approach is as has been set out at the System Safety Risk Group (SSRG), the Health and Wellbeing Policy Group (HWPG) and the Industry Health and Safety Meeting (IHSM). 

Previous progress reports are availble below.

FAQs

What is the Rail Health and Safety Strategy?

The rail health and safety strategy - "Leading Health and Safety on Britain's – A strategy for working together" addresses the challenge the industry currently faces in making the next big step change in managing health and safety on GB rail network. GB rail companies have adopted a proactive approach to safety management over the last 20 years and this has delivered significant performance improvement meaning our railway system is the safest in Europe. However, this performance has plateaued and it is recognised that a number of areas of health and safety have the potential for considerable improvement. By bringing the industry together and providing the framework and focus to enable the industry to deliver the improvements needed. The strategy sets out 12 risk priorities and also 9 areas of underlying safety management capabilities, which will be targeted for cross-industry collaborative improvement over the next 10 years.

What does it mean for the industry?

This builds on the proactive approach we already have to safety management and provides, for the first time, an agreed framework for collaborative working together to deliver a step change in how rail companies can improve health and safety. By developing an agreed set of priorities, grounded in a sound evidence base, we are enabling the industry to develop a way forward. 

Why do we need one?

GB rail has had a proactive approach to safety over the last 20 years and this has delivered significant improvements in our performance. However, more recently improvements in this performance has not delivered any significant changes and this approach is designed to enable that to happen. 

What difference will it make to passengers, employees and the public?

Everyone should have trust and confidence in the performance of safety on GB rail – but there is more we can do to better understand and manage the risks on the system. 

The approach will have a different impact on each of these groups, across the different range of priority risk areas. What this will mean is that, over the coming months and years the industry will look at how to better understand those risks we don't yet fully understand and how to take steps to further mitigate others. Employees in particular have an important role in helping their managers and senior leaders better understand and improve health and safety and we would hope they have an opportunity to contribute. 

Are you concerned about how health and safety is currently managed?

No. GB rail has had a proactive approach to safety over the last 20 years and this has delivered significant improvements in our performance. It is however important that we are not complacent and look to deliver continuous improvement wherever possible. 

There are other areas – such as health and wellbeing – where our knowledge, understanding and approach is not as developed.

What are the next steps?

Industry leadership have endorsed the strategy. RSSB, working with colleagues from across the industry, will now help identify clear work streams, championed and sponsored by industry leaders, supported by the RSSB structure and expertise, to develop a clear programme to enhance understanding, identify possible solutions and  implement change. 

Who supports the strategy?

The leaders of each rail company – from across train operators, infrastructure owners and suppliers and freight operators –all support and have personally endorsed the strategic approach. 

How will this make a difference?

By establishing a framework this approach has, for the first time, delivered both a common understand of where we are – and where we need to improve. The industry has asked for this understanding, and has committed to taking it forward. RSSB will continue to support the industry in developing its understanding and a way ahead. 

Can you enforce change?

No that is not RSSB's role. However, the Office of Rail and Road Regulation has endorsed this approach and is the enforcer on safety matters. 

What should my company be doing?

Leaders of the rail industry and its suppliers, are committed to further improve health and safety performance beyond today's level. They acknowledge that the rate of safety improvement has slowed over the past few years. They also acknowledge the increasing challenges ahead. Growth in passenger numbers and freight volumes are expected to continue, and there are increasing expectations to demonstrate value for money. 

Specifically each leader has endorsed their support for this strategy and committed to:

  • Understand, endorse and champion the strategy, and communicate it within their own organisations, and among their suppliers.
  • Recognise and support in-company health and safety policy statements and management systems.
  • Review and adjust company health and safety plans where appropriate.
  • Help establish recognised cross-industry arrangements to facilitate delivery.
  • Empower their teams to engage with and support agreed cross-industry arrangements to address identified risk and improvement opportunities.
  • Lead specific work streams or activities.
  • Set up and participate in arrangements to review the strategy.

How does this fit with other RSSB initiatives?

RSSB provides research, analysis and insight to the GB rail system. This strategy is part of a range of understanding, technical expertise and evidence RSSB provides to enable the rail network to deliver the improvements and developments needed to deliver an effective, safe and cost efficient system.

What is RSSB doing in supporting the delivery of the strategy?

RSSB's role will depend upon and be specific to the different work streams.  For example: the development of the next generation of reporting systems is a package of work RSSB is leading and delivering on behalf of the industry. Other risk areas will be led by the most appropriate organisation – for example British Transport Police and Network Rail may lead on public behaviour in relation to trespass risk. 

How will you review progress?

Progress against the strategy will be reviewed by industry leaders at the Industry Health and Safety Meeting twice a year.

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