January 2011 in Network Rail and Suppliers
A reporter is concerned about a number of practices being carried out in the Cheshire, Clwyd and Gwynedd areas.
The lack of time given to staff to familiarise themselves with the area in which they are working is one concern. It is felt that pressure placed on them to complete work in the quickest time possible, may result in shortcuts like this being taken. As a result staff regularly find themselves unsure as to which is the Up or Down line, also they are not being provided with signal diagrams or mileages for the area. Another concern is about newly qualified members of staff carrying out track inspections without supervision. The reporter comments that although staff have completed the training necessary to carry out inspections, they are not being monitored. This creates the risk that mistakes could be overlooked when inspections are carried out.
The reporter is also aware of staff being requested to work with machinery and hand tools they are not qualified to use. It is believed that this occurs due to inadequacies in rostering and not enough qualified staff in the area.
It is also felt that staff who do not have enough railway experience are being trained to hold positions such as Controllers of Site Safety (COSS) or Lookouts. The concern is that these duties are not being carried out adequately.
Network Rail would like to thank the reporter for bringing their concerns to our attention.
The reporter feels that more monitoring of local management
is required to ensure that Network Rail guidelines are being
followed. Is this possible?
The staff responsible for the planning and provision of the site documentation are competent in core planning skills and produce the 'COSS Pack' containing part completed documentation e.g. RT9909, Sectional Appendix, Hazard Directory, supported when applicable by form RT3181 and where appropriate a separate site diagram. In addition to this documentation, the Chester Delivery Unit also provides a feedback sheet, where the Controller of Site Safety (COSS) provides comments regarding issues with the documentation or the setting up of the safe system and they are immediately reviewed by the relevant Manager.
To underline our commitment to check that site safety and documentation are not compromised, we have a robust unannounced management site safety check system in place. It is not always possible for pre-work site familiarisation inspections to be undertaken. However, all staff are briefed on the 'right to refuse to work procedures' (Worksafe) and key point reminder cards have been issued to all staff, which clarify how and when the procedure should be invoked. We have yet to see this procedure invoked in the areas concerned.
All new basic visual inspection training courses follow the specifications mandated for this skill. This comprises of a four day training course with theory and practical trackside training, followed by a formal assessment. Following this, the successful delegates are required to conduct at least three documented track patrolling events under mentorship, prior to the award of the 'Authority to Work'. In addition, regular quality checks are also carried out by Line Managers on all patrolling staff, as mandated by NR/L3/TRK/1015 (vers. 2).
Network Rail does not expect any of its employees to use any tool that requires a competence, if they do not hold that competence. A training needs analysis is carried out by Line Managers to provide sufficient numbers of staff to accommodate planned work activities and as stated previously, the Worksafe Procedure can be invoked by any member of staff if there are any concerns regarding their competence to carry out those activities.
Although CIRAS have received responses on this in the past
for the benefit of this reporter could Network Rail clarify their
policy on this?
The route to competence for COSS and Lookout under Assessment in the Line (AiTL) begins with the Line Manager completing a competence profile; this will generate an underpinning knowledge for the online testing and suitability for the task. The Manager will take into consideration factors such as age, experience, personal characteristics etc.
The Manager completes regular performance reports which will confirm whether the individual is performing the required tasks to an acceptable level and any shortfalls in that performance, can be identified and dealt with in the most appropriate manner, either by additional training, mentorship or if necessary the removal of that competence from the individual. AiTL provides an accurate view on the competence of maintenance staff and provides the Line Manager with an understanding of the performance of key roles, such as COSS and Lookout.