When you receive a report via CIRAS, you’re getting a lot more than information, as KeolisAmey Metrolink’s Carole Mason explained to us. Find out how a CIRAS report helped reduce risk, improve safety investigation and lead to a better reporting culture at one of our largest light rail members.
CIRAS offers a confidential health and safety reporting hotline to staff at its 1,900 member companies across the transport sector and its supply chain in the UK and Republic of Ireland. It’s a diverse community, dedicated to improving the health, safety and wellbeing of staff, passengers and the public on or near our members’ locations, infrastructure and work sites.
We spoke to one of our members, transport operator KeolisAmey Metrolink (KAM), about a safety report they received through CIRAS and the value it gave them – and their employees. We also found out how CIRAS enhances the organisation’s approach to health and safety management.
The reporter suggested that there was a potential risk to public safety from team culture at KAM – in particular when putting a tram back into service after an incident. They felt that staff were carrying out tasks on safety-critical systems without the right knowledge or authority. The reporter also raised a separate concern about shelves blocking access to a fire exit in a storeroom. See more here.
How CIRAS led to positive outcomes for Metrolink
‘CIRAS is a critical risk management tool at KAM’ says Carole Mason, the company’s health and safety manager. She adds ‘CIRAS reports identify risks and give insight into different perspectives, including how the issue is affecting our frontline workers.
‘A CIRAS report provides a hook that I can use to work with colleagues on resolution and can be a trigger for sharing learning and feedback more widely.’
The CIRAS report about team culture and the fire exit, for example, helped lead to a successful outcome both for KAM and the person who raised the report. It had an impact in many ways:
- It identified a risk and provided new intelligence to the safety team.
- It helped ensure a robust investigation and the sharing of learning.
- CIRAS acted as an independent voice lending weight to the issue.
- It triggered communications with frontline staff.
CIRAS’ confidential reporting service means we can provide members with information that might not have been reported through any other channel. This could be for any number of reasons – from staff fearing potential consequences, or not having a suitable channel (if their concern is for a company that isn’t their employer), to not feeling that they will be listened to - whether this is the case or not.
‘The report was a welcome warning sign that there could be safety culture issues that needed further investigation,’ says Carole of the behaviours outlined in the CIRAS report she received. The safety team hadn’t been aware of this risk previously. ‘It made me aware that something wasn’t right and I needed to properly understand what was going on.’#
Carole had also been unaware of the storeroom issue, and the new intelligence from the CIRAS report established grounds for an investigation.
‘I welcome any intelligence about risk, wherever it comes from’, she says.
Before writing up a report, CIRAS’ psychology-trained reporting analysts use their skills when interviewing someone about a concern. They listen carefully to make sure they understand the impact of the issues on people in the workplace and get as much relevant detail as possible (while maintaining confidentiality), so that the report fully reflects the concern.
‘The insights in a CIRAS report helps us see both sides of the issue and really develop empathy and understanding for what the reporter is experiencing,’ says Carole.
Independence promoting robust investigation
On investigating, Carole found that the operations team were aware of the cultural issues and had been taking steps to resolve them but hadn’t flagged this to the safety team. The CIRAS report meant Carole could step in and take an independent role in ensuring the concern was properly addressed and share lessons learned.
‘When a risk is raised independently in a CIRAS report, I find this helpful as a starting point to discuss it with colleagues and explore resolutions,’ she says. ‘This independence gives the concern additional weight and can help to cut through any local resistance.
‘Colleagues also know that a CIRAS report and its outcomes will be shared with senior colleagues. Safety concerns can be more widely visible than if they are resolved in local teams.
‘I share the learning from CIRAS reports with our HSQE director and managing director and it helps to inform the wider picture of safety in the business.’
Carole further explains that CIRAS reports to KAM typically lead to a ‘lessons learned briefing’. For example, once the fire exit risk in the storeroom was fixed, she cascaded a briefing though tram maintenance managers to frontline staff. Another piece of learning from the storeroom concern was that teams should always consult the HSQE team when planning significant changes in work areas.
Triggering communication with staff
For both the team culture and fire exit risks, although work had been ongoing to address the risks, the report drew attention to the fact that this hadn’t been communicated to frontline staff.
‘The CIRAS report was the trigger that led to sharing information about what was being done,’ says Carole, who closes the feedback loop by considering who within KAM needs to be informed of any findings or outcomes from CIRAS reports.
The CIRAS feedback loop means that anyone raising a concern finds out what has happened with their concern – and they can share (confidentially) how they feel about the response they’ve received.
The CIRAS report in this example has led to KAM making changes to its own reporting app, so that it includes feedback to let people know what is happening after they have reported issues.
‘For us, joining CIRAS was about creating an open and honest culture, giving employees every way possible to raise a safety concern,’ reflects Carole. ‘Offering several ways to report means we have some reassurance that we’ll get to know about issues so that we can act to prevent injuries, ill health, or damage. Essentially, it’s about keeping people safe and well so that they go home injury-free each day.
‘CIRAS complements our Stop, Think, Act, Report (STAR) system. The CIRAS and STAR reporting channels reinforce Metrolink’s commitment to zero harm by creating a positive, transparent reporting and learning culture. This encourages our employees to take personal responsibility for improving the health and safety environment for their colleagues and our customers.’
Read an edited version of the report and response that was published in our Frontline Matters magazine. CIRAS members can log in to our website to search for and read full reports and responses.