Stop blaming and start learning, rail companies advised

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Rail companies are being advised to end the culture of simply blaming people for incidents, and instead focus on understanding how people perform at work, what affects their performance, and how this can be enhanced.

New guidance published by rail industry body RSSB aims to help rail companies develop more effective competence development plans (CDPs), that help staff perform to the best of their abilities.

Guidance for train drivers has been around for some time, but is now also available for people working as guards or platform staff who dispatch trains.

The importance of CDPs has been highlighted by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB), which found that deficiencies in competence management systems have contributed to serious accidents.  It’s also a legal requirement to ensure people are sufficiently competent to do safety critical work on the railway.

RSSB’s Lead Human Factors Specialist, Paul Leach explains: The key point here is about having a fair culture – sometimes referred to as a just culture. This recognises that everyone makes mistakes and a range of factors relating to the organisation, the job and workplace can affect performance.

Of course, situations involving wilful violations or gross negligence will prompt punishment, but experience suggests that rail staff are proud of their professionalism, and so will be more responsive to a system which builds on their competence constructively and creates more trust and confidence in teams.

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