Concern

A reporter was concerned that staff shortages at a control centre were impacting on workload, with potential safety consequences for the railway.

The reporter was concerned there should have been cover when a controller went on a break.
If cover was not available, a manager would normally stand in. But the reporter believed that some managers were not competent to take over the role.

Some controllers were working a 12-hour shift with a limited break, or none at all, leading to fatigue, and a potential safety incident.

Managers were also covering safety critical roles but the reporter said they did not possess the local knowledge required.

Having knowledge of the local area forms a key part of being able to respond quickly if there is an incident.

Actions requested
• Could all employees be appropriately trained for the role they are undertaking?
• Could all employees receive sufficient breaks to reduce fatigue?
• Could the vacancies be filled?

Response

A communications assessment identified some areas for improvement.

An action was placed on management to better learn their areas of control and cover them effectively.

This will also help identify panel breakdowns better, and aid more streamlined communications.

Whilst the risks of fatigue are taken very seriously, it was admitted that sometimes, due to operational constraints, they were unable to provide a break to staff.
On these rare occasions breaks must be taken around service requirements.

All vacancies have now been filled at the control centre in question. A further four posts have now been created to help manage the shortages.

Even with a full complement of staff there are currently not enough positions to cover the post.

There is also a risk attached to the long lead time in getting people trained up as fully competent.

It is recognised that proactive recruitment is necessary in the future to ease such situations.

Put it into practice!

If you are concerned about the impact of fatigue on safe working conditions, report it.

Having local knowledge can be critical in situations that require an immediate response. This is also very worthy of being reported.