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A safety net when all else fails

40998 ‘Poor’ safety culture at contractor carrying out fleet maintenance

January 2011 in Network Rail and Suppliers

tagged Training and briefing Communication and teamwork Not Specified

A reporter has contacted CIRAS with concerns about the safety culture impacting negatively on the working practices of a company called Railway Vehicle Engineers Ltd (RVEL) who maintain the Network Rail infrastructure maintenance vehicles.

The reporter believes that the majority of staff have a lack of knowledge about general safety. This leaves inexperienced members of staff unable to challenge unsafe practices and experienced staff feeling unable to invoke the worksafe procedure through fear of losing their jobs. It is believed that this is generating a poor safety culture within the company.

  • Are Network Rail able to provide a briefing or training to enhance the safety knowledge at this company?

A further concern is about Personal Track Safety (PTS) training. The reporter understands that in order to ensure all staff pass, PTS training is not carried out adequately and all staff are passed regardless of whether they reach the standard required, meaning they may not be competent to work trackside. The training is also reportedly being carried out in-house. Is this allowed?

Response from RVEL

PTS training and certification is provided through the Sentinel system and not undertaken "in-house" as the CIRAS report alleges.

It is undertaken by Amtrain, an Achilles licensed and accredited training provider (RTAS0178). RVEL staff have been trained in classes alongside other contractors requiring PTS and do not receive favourable treatment in any way. PTS training is sometimes undertaken on site when a large enough class size is available, otherwise staff travel to Amtrain's training centre at Fradley.

RVEL is externally audited by Achilles against the core module, enabling them to be a sponsor of Sentinel registered PTS staff.

RVEL is careful to monitor its safety performance through a combination of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), regular safety inspections, accident/incident investigations and internal audits. A near miss reporting and analysis process has recently been introduced. Any reports of unsafe practices are always investigated and fully closed out. Safety issues are always the first agenda item and are discussed at all management meetings and at board level.

Where appropriate, staff are trained and certificated using trainers with the specialist knowledge required for the particular tasks to be assessed.

RVEL also has a "workshop forum" where management meet regularly with elected staff representatives. Safety issues are discussed and resolved within this forum, although staff are urged to raise safety issues as and when they occur, either through the Workshop Manager or any Manager or staff representative.

Safety concerns can be raised anonymously through the near miss reporting process or via a staff representative. The near miss reporting procedure is set out in Safety Procedure SP-06 "Accident / Incident and Dangerous Occurrence reporting" and on the near miss reporting form. The 'Refusal to Work Procedure' is set out in the first section of the RVEL Employee Handbook and the procedure includes contact details for CIRAS. The Employee Handbook is given to all employees as part of their induction pack.

Where KPIs exceed target level, action is taken through the lean escalation process. Management philosophy is to engender a positive and progressive safety culture through a combination of training, briefings, visualisation of safety performance and encouraging staff to correct unsafe performance within their peer group. Any Manager or Supervisor found to be using a culture of fear as method of preventing unsafe acts or processes being reported would be subject to the harassment policy and a severe reprimand or dismissal. RVEL have also declared that they will be working towards ISO18001 accreditation by December 2011 in order that a fully accredited integrated quality, environmental and safety system is achieved.

In addition we have committed to forming a safety committee, comprised of trained safety representatives from each function of the business. However, we acknowledge that safety performance is only an indication of safety culture. Now that RVEL's safety culture has been openly questioned the management team consider that the most prudent course of action is to commission an industry safety expert to produce an independent report into the company's safety culture. By this method we can demonstrate to our stakeholders that safety is RVEL's primary concern and if necessary put in place corrective actions.

 

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