Stewart McFarlane started out as a driver in ScotRail after nine years in the army. During his military service he developed operational plans and an interest in safety. Now Emergency Planning and Business Continuity Manager, Stewart has been ScotRail’s CIRAS rep for two years.
What are the key elements of ScotRail’s approach to safety?
We comply with legislative obligations, but that’s just the start. The key is a culture where it’s clear that safety is everybody’s responsibility - if it’s not safe, don’t do it. We ensure staff operate in a safe environment and have the competencies to work safely. Safety is a key element of staff training, and is discussed regularly with our Board – including lessons from our CIRAS reports.
What difference has CIRAS made at ScotRail?
CIRAS complements our internal safety reporting by offering staff a choice for reporting concerns. We want it to be easy for staff to report, and to show them we’ve got a mature safety culture. In return we’ve found out about safety concerns which might otherwise have gone undiscovered. CIRAS is part of our safety system and we promote it throughout our business – so safety issues have nowhere to hide. Our CIRAS reports provide welcome intelligence, and with it a chance to act proactively and hopefully avoid injury. I’m confident we’re safer as a result of confidential reporting.
Any specific examples?
A staff member reported sharp edges on a class 156 footplate to CIRAS. We investigated all 48 and repaired 42 of them – removing the hazard from across the fleet. We’ve also had a CIRAS report about risks to pedestrians from the layout of Oban station car park. We installed new signage and safe walking routes. We share our responses to CIRAS reports with relevant staff across ScotRail so the lessons are applied more widely.
What have you done to embed CIRAS - what tips would you give others?
We’ve worked hard to ensure our Board know about CIRAS and its benefits. In return, they expect to see how we are responding to reports and learning from them. Promoting the scheme has also been key. CIRAS doesn’t work in isolation – it’s part of our overall approach. We tell staff about CIRAS during their induction, and we keep them informed e.g. by sharing the CIRAS newsletter in every depot and cascading our responses to reports through line managers.
How would you like to see your relationship with CIRAS develop?
I’ve talked to our CIRAS stakeholder manager about how we can get more for our membership. I’d like to benefit more from CIRAS’ access to good practice in other transport companies. We’re thinking of running fatigue workshops based on material CIRAS has created from good practice identified by its members. I’d also like to have a say in new developments and we’re helping CIRAS develop their member portal later this year. Many industries could benefit from confidential reporting e.g. oil and gas. There’s a lot we could learn from each other – maybe that’s CIRAS’ future?