Workforce safety is a broad term and many aspects of it are covered elsewhere in the strategy. The Workforce Safety theme focuses on two significant areas of workforce safety: infrastructure worker safety and depot worker safety.

The accidents at Roade (April 2020), Margam (July 2019) and Stoats Nest Junction (November 2018) have sharpened industry focus on track worker safety. Prior to Stoats Nest Junction, it had been nearly five years since the previous fatal accident involving a moving train, although the warning signs were there. The number and trend in near misses had not shown a sustained reduction, and numerous RAIB investigations had highlighted recurrent issues. Workstreams had been put in place to reduce the risk, but it was understood that more needed to be done.

With this in mind, issue 3 of Leading Health and Safety on Britain's Railway (LHSBR) has highlighted a number of strategic challenges. It calls for more clarity around roles and responsibilities, more consistency around planning and implementing safe systems of work, making greater use of digital technology to reduce risk, and improving monitoring, supervision, and assurance.

One event in 2019 demonstrated that workforce safety was not only about infrastructure staff: on 14 December, a train driver was killed while passing between two units being coupled at Tyseley depot.  

Although train operators put depot accidents into SMIS, other organisations that carry out train care and maintenance do not.  This means the industry does not have a complete picture of depot risk. This needs to change. 

What the rail industry is doing to support infrastructure workforce safety

There is a strong focus across the sector on support for Network Rail’s drive to improve infrastructure workforce safety. It calls for the collaborative power that is needed—across the many contributors—to bring about lasting change. Five of the workforce safety strategic challenges map onto Network Rail's plans.

Infrastructure Workforce Safety Strategic Challenge 1

There is a lack of clarity in roles and responsibilities, developing and maintaining competence, and safety culture among trackside workers and managers.

This will be improved as we develop evidence-based competence management systems and improve clarity on roles and responsibilities.

Infrastructure Workforce Safety Strategic Challenge 2

There is inconsistency around planning and implementing safe systems of work that give a high level of protection.

This will be improved as we:

  • support planners by providing better information to improve protection system design
  • enhance safe work packs to be risk-based and easier to use
  • consider maintenance and maintainability in a more integrated approach to franchising and timetabling and continue move to predict-and-prevent rather than reactive maintenance.

Infrastructure Workforce Safety Strategic Challenge 3

Insufficient use is being made of digital technology to reduce the risk to those working on or about the track.

This will be improved as we design and develop new protection and warning systems to warn workers of approaching trains; provide additional protection in line blockages; and improve how site access is planned and monitored, by enabling digital sign-in at access points.

Infrastructure Workforce Safety - Strategic Challenge 4

Management has limited visibility of the risk to infrastructure workers because of deficiencies in monitoring, supervision, and assurance.

This will be improved as we:

  • develop the consistency of investigations, and how learning from them is recorded, valued and shared
  • develop better track worker safety metrics, including close calls, with better information on losses of controlled separation
  • introduce leading indicators, including exposure metrics such as the level of protection achieved, to track and influence behaviours and drive a sustained approach to improving safety and productivity.

Infrastructure Workforce Safety - Strategic Challenge 5

Collaboration in this sector has often been found to be wanting.

This will be improved as we strike the right balance between sharing local innovation and adopting industry best practice.

Significant areas of work to support this change in workforce safety are covered by Network Rail, the Infrastructure Strategy Leadership Group (ISLG) and RSSB

Network Rail Workforce Safety Task Force

The Network Rail Workforce Safety Task Force has been formed to target track worker safety, with the ultimate objective of making working with unassisted lookout warning the exception, not the norm. Each Route will have a funded project team. The project will accelerate the Near Miss Reduction Programme and pull together several existing NR workstreams. The Task Force will be a partnership with all the key players in the industry—including ISLG.

ISLG is resetting its strategy to cover:

  • a New Charter for contractors to work Safely Securely Sustainably, and revised terms of reference
  • new stakeholder mapping strategic activities in LHSBR to industry partners tackling workforce safety
  • 2020 ISLG Strategy and Delivery Plan
  • collaborative opportunities for industry rationalisation.

RSSB provides the resource to support collaboration across the industry so that the industry effort is recognised, communicated and the various needs of participants are balanced. Rail leaders will be supported to get the right data, insights, and evidence to make informed decisions about how to monitor and improve workforce safety, health and wellbeing. 

Where to get support:

Network Rail’s Safety Central website provides a range of health and safety materials, including safety alerts, briefing notes and videos. 

ISLG is an RSSB-supported, cross-industry collaboration group with representatives from the contractor community. Part of its remit is to establish and implement arrangements to address the ‘duty of cooperation’ across the mainline and non-mainline rail networks.

The RSSB Workforce Safety web page provides information on the strategies, tools, and other resources pertinent to workforce safety. 

What the rail industry is doing to support depot workforce safety

Industry also understands the need to improve depot safety, and train and freight operators are developing plans for improvement. RSSB supports the drive to collaborate successfully, with direction from the industry.

Depot Safety - Strategic Challenge 1: There is no clear industry-wide picture of risk and safety performance in depots.

This will be improved as we increase industry-wide understanding of risk in depots, by improving the quality of accident and incident information and share experience and best practice to understand and manage the operational risks and mitigation measures. 

Rail Delivery Group and train operators are setting out their drive for change in depot safety. A subgroup has been set up and is currently drawing up its remit and body of work. 

The freight community through Rail Freight Operators Group and National Rail Freight Safety Group has developed a ‘Freight Integrated Plan for Safety, A plan to guide Freight Operating Companies’ delivery of the rail industry Strategy LHSBR’ that identifies commitments to workforce safety.

RSSB will support collaboration across the industry, improving data and insights.

Where to get support:

  • The Train Accident Risk Group is an RSSB-supported cross-industry collaboration group with representatives from passenger train operators.
  • The aim of the National Freight Safety Group (NFSG) is to facilitate the improvement of health and safety in the rail freight industry through managing system risk.
  • The Rail Freight Operators Group is an RSSB-supported collaborative group that oversees rail freight operational safety and standards.


RSSB offers Human Factors Awareness Training to help operators better understand why people make mistakes, exploring factors that can influence workforce safety and performance such as fatigue, equipment design and organisational culture.

RSSB offers Non-Technical Skills (NTS) Awareness and Integration Training to help operators understand how NTS affects infrastructure worker safety, yards, depots and sidings safety and how these skills can be developed to improve safety in these areas.

RSSB offers training in their Risk-Based Training Needs Analysis toolkit. The tool and training helps operators determine a) tasks and competencies staff require to deliver infrastructure worker safety, yards, depots and sidings safety b) training and assessment priorities for these staff and c) review and identify different and maybe more effective ways of training staff who work on infrastructure and in yards, depots and sidings.

RSSB offers a fair culture workshop to help you better understand fair culture and plan how your organisation can foster a fairer culture to improve infrastructure worker safety, yards, depots and sidings safety. Email: for more information.

RSSB offers Non-Technical Skills (NTS) Refresher Training to help operators refresh their understanding in how NTS affects infrastructure worker safety, yards, depots and sidings safety and how these skills can be developed to improve safety in these areas.