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50306 Staff working with tools without the correct certification

February 2012 in Network Rail and Suppliers

tagged Knowledge Skills and experience Training and briefing South East North West Central

A reporter is concerned that staff are currently working with small tools without holding the correct certification on the London North Western (LNW) route.

According to the reporter, staff are not aware that they are required to hold a small tools certification for each individual tool they use.  It is felt that all staff and contractors working on a site should have an 'authority to work' sheet, which contains all the details of the qualifications and competencies the individual holds, when they were acquired and when they need to be renewed.

The reporter is concerned that if staff do not hold the correct certification to use the small tools, they could injure themselves because they have not had the required training.

Could Network Rail:

  • Investigate whether staff have the correct certification for working with small tools on the LNW route, to reduce the risk of injury?
  • Work with their contractors to ensure all staff working on site carry an 'authority to work' sheet when they are signing in, so their competencies can be checked before they start work?

Response from Network Rail

Network Rail would like to thank the reporter for bringing their concerns to our attention.


All staff working for Network Rail are trained in the use of small tools. This is carried out as part of the initial training. All staff carrying out technical activities go through a series of training modules to gain their competence and the use of small tools is included in the courses. This would also apply to contract staff.

In the case of permanent-way activities, all staff and contractors have to go through a ten day induction course that covers all aspects of p-way maintenance and the use of small tools is also included in this. Any individual who completes the initial training modules or the induction course will have the competence and certification for the use of small tools.

The individual's competence will be recorded on their authority to work sheet and this is kept at the depot. Their sentinel card will be updated to include the training courses. However it should be noted that the sentinel card does not show a list of the small tools that they have the competence to use.

"...a working group is currently reviewing all aspects of training for small tools."

We contacted the training group at Walsall and asked their views with regard to competence for small tools. They confirmed that what we have reported is correct but they pointed out that there is a small working group currently reviewing all aspects of training for small tools. Their review has taken into consideration injuries sustained from accidents using small tools and general feedback from the Engineers. The training group are hoping in time to produce a definitive list of small tools similar to the small plant list with the appropriate training or briefing that is required. It is clear that the staff are trained in the use of small tools as part of the initial training or induction course but the issue may be that they have no supporting documentation when checked on site.  

Authority to work sheet

The reporter has raised a very important issue with regard to contract staff carrying their authority to work sheet so they can be checked on site when they sign in. Although the contract staff are provided with small tools training, it is clear that even the competence on the sentinel card would not give the detail of what type of hand tools they have been trained to use and checking each individual's competence would be difficult.

We are also of the opinion that this could also be an issue with Network Rail staff and it may have some bearing on the previous question raised by the reporter as all staff do not carry a copy of their authority to work sheet on site. 

We have asked the training group to include this issue in their review of competence in the use of small tools. We hold regular meetings with our contract staff and we will include an agenda item to explain the issue and encourage them to provide some form of authority to work sheet so it can be checked on site. It is clear from the reporter's feedback that identification of competence for small tools on work sites needs some further work.  

We would like to thank the person for raising the issue with CIRAS in order that we can tackle the issue promptly and improve the issue they have raised. ​