March 2010 in Network Rail and Suppliers
Maintenance operators in Scotland being asked to work shifts consecutively is a concern for a reporter - this has been the subject of several previous CIRAS reports.
Staff are reported to be working day shifts on construction sites and going straight on to railway sites at night. The reporter believes that this not being detected because there is a separate system for construction and railway timesheets. Working excessive hours is in conflict with the Working Time Directive which states that workers should be getting an adequate break between shifts.
The reporter comments that staff generally feel unable to refuse. Working excessive hours increases the likelihood of a safety critical mistake through lack of rest - especially if staff are operating heavy machinery.
Would the contractor:
This company well understands the rules regarding working hours and the necessary breaks required between shifts. Accordingly, it has robust systems in place at all depots nationwide, including Scotland, to ensure that these rules are observed.
All of its depots are internally audited a minimum of three
times each year by the internal compliance department to confirm
that systems are being followed. Additionally the depots are
regularly audited by Network Rail and its main contractors to
establish that rules are being observed.
Network Rail carried out a very detailed audit of Scotland depot earlier this year, and expressed no major concerns.
At this time in the economic cycle we have had to make redundant
a large number of skilled operators and are endeavouring to provide
all the remaining operators employed by us with sufficient work.
This means spreading the available workbank more thinly over the
remaining workforce. We are having to ask machine operators to work
LESS hours than previously. There is categorically NO pressure on
anyone to work MORE hours, and certainly none whatsoever to work
The rail division and construction operation work closely together to best utilise machine operators and work within the working hour rules.
Our internal audits undertaken by our Compliance Division and the external audits undertaken by Network Rail and the main contractors have not revealed any issues. Our managers in the Scotland depot are not aware of any issues, nor of any machine operators raising such issues.
We will continue to roster our machine operators within the
working hour rules.
Any machine operators who have any concerns should raise them with their line managers.
We have successfully introduced a "right to refuse to work" policy for all our machine operators which ensures that they can refuse to work if they are asked to do anything which they consider unsafe. This has been supported by ALL our customers without exception, and has lead to a number of instances where customers have changed work methods with absolutely no negatives being attached to the machine operator who raised the issue.