August 2010 in Network Rail and Suppliers
A reporter is concerned about staff being asked to carry out track patrolling duties when they have received a shortened version of the training required.
In order to carry out patrolling duties staff normally attend a four day training course followed up with trackside mentorship. However, in order to cover these duties during pending strike action, current staff are only receiving an hour-and-a-half trackside training which the reporter believes to be inadequate. In some cases staff with little or no track experience are being asked to cover the patrolling duties and still are only receiving an hour-and-a-half's training.
The reporter is concerned that as staff expected to cover these
duties have not received the full training they may not completely
understand what they are supposed to do and could miss something
critical out on track. It is felt that it is essential for staff to
attend the four day course in order to cover such duties.
Network Rail would like to thank the reporter for bringing their concern to our attention. Track patrolling is key for infrastructure safety. The risk assessment that underpins our contingency plan for a major staff shortage does not support an accelerated route to initial competence for track patrolling. Consequently, we would support the concern as stated and the conclusions of our investigation are as follows.
We have reviewed all of our track patrolling courses that have
been run during the preparations for potential industrial action.
They have all followed the full course
specification published as the Route to Competence for Track Patrolling. This comprises a four day course with theory and practical trackside training, followed by a formal assessment. Successful delegates are required to conduct at least three track patrolling events under mentorship prior to the award of an 'authority to work'. We have made limited exceptions to allow the content of the four day course to be covered in three (extended) days for individuals assessed pre-course as having greater levels of experience and technical capability. The same assessment mechanisms are used and analysis of course results has demonstrated that we can be assured of the same level of performance
on a three (extended) day course as a four day course.
A similar concern that might have been confused with initial
training has been investigated by the Office of Rail Regulation
(ORR) inspectors. On this occasion, the staff were experienced
Principal Technical Officers, who undertake far more detailed
inspections as part of their normal competency set. The technical
team were undertaking a track patrolling mentoring session prior to
their individual annual assessment in the line tests for extension
of their competence. The amount of time spent trackside during this
event would have been dependent on the mentor's judgement of
individual experience and capability. It is
conceivable in this scenario that they would only have required the one-and-a-half hours reported. All of the team passed their subsequent assessments. This mentoring scenario should not be misinterpreted as the total trackside training experience required to satisfy the Track Patrolling Route to Competence.
The ORR is reviewing Network Rail's contingency plans for potential industrial action. The ORR plans to visit selected locations to review individual competency profiles and the associated routes to competence. The intent is to gain assurance that appropriate risk analysis has been undertaken and that the training of individual staff responsible for safety critical tasks is not being compromised.