Our April Railnews Safety Spot explores the types of concerns you can raise through CIRAS that you might not have considered.

You can read the article below.

Person hacking a laptop computer cyber security

We think about the railway as an integrated system – such as when a points or signalling failure causes delays. This is just as true for safety as it is for performance, so it’s always good to be on the lookout. 

If something goes wrong, isn’t working or is happening in an unsafe way, it can impact elsewhere on the rail network. Everyone has a part to play in keeping the railway safe.  

Speaking up about health and safety concerns is key. That includes when you’re not sure what exactly is wrong or how to fix it, and when it’s not on your patch or not your area of expertise. Ignoring a small issue, or assuming it’s someone else’s problem, could allow it to become worse. 

CIRAS will listen to your concern, pass it to the relevant company confidentially and share the response with you.  CIRAS can then ask follow-up questions about the response on your behalf. 

Many of the concerns that people raise through CIRAS are about common issues such as unsafe practices, competence, rules and procedures, fatigue, welfare facilities and safety practices. But did you know we can take forward concerns about any genuine health and safety issue? That includes some things you might not have considered.   

Railway assets 

These are the physical parts of infrastructure that make up the railway network. From signalling, track and overhead lines to IT infrastructure, as well as bridges, tunnels and other structures, railway assets are as essential for rail operations as the people who manage and look after them. 

Railway assets wear down over time, or break. Although there are many ways to identify these failures, if you see something then bring attention to it. Never assume that anyone else knows about it, or that it is scheduled to be fixed.

You might also realise that an asset failure could have a broader impact, perhaps because of its location. It is better to be safe than sorry.

If you see something you think could cause an accident imminently, we recommend raising it through a channel that can act instantly to make the situation safe. Your first call is your company’s internal reporting channels or, if you are not sure what these are, the 24-hour Network Rail emergency helpline (03457 11 41 41). 

Where it is not an imminent issue, you can speak to CIRAS. 

IT security 

Don’t forget about less obvious assets, such as IT infrastructure.  If you suspect that an IT application or system that you are using is not secure, do not hesitate to raise this as a concern. If an operational system is hacked, there are clear implications for safety.   

Trespass 

Where you identify a trespass hotspot or the potential for somewhere to become one, you can speak up and get action taken to prevent it. Our latest Frontline Matters magazine includes a concern in Glasgow that led to fencing being fixed, more British Transport Police patrols, anti-climb devices and plans for community engagement. 

Wellbeing  

Stress and mental health issues can affect how we work, and others may not notice. Whether you feel that your work contributes to this, or makes it difficult to manage the distraction effect of personal issues, you can contact us if you would prefer to raise it confidentially. We can’t offer you advice, but we will make sure your concerns are shared with your employer.   

Environment 

We can share your concerns about environmental issues if they pose a health and safety risk to people. For example: pollution, toxic substances being handled unsafely, or working practices creating long-term health issues. Do you have concerns about silica dust, asbestos, noise or diesel fumes? 

Change 

New and one-off developments can impact safety. An organisational change to a team structure or the way it communicates with other business areas might unintentionally put colleagues or passengers at risk.  

A trend such as a social media challenge, or new technology (think drones and e-scooters), might cause people to behave in an unsafe way around the railway. 

If you are in a frontline role, you are well placed to notice things.  Everyone comes together to make the railway a success and speaking up as an individual makes it a safer place. CIRAS is one way to have your voice heard. 

Read our Frontline Matters newsletter or case studies page for more examples of concerns.