Our Safety Spot column for the February 2021 issue of Railnews shows how safety starts with you.

You can read the article below.

Knowing about health, safety and wellbeing issues or near-misses helps companies to track trends, identify risks and prevent future incidents. So why doesn't everyone always speak up and share this information?

Lots of factors influence how comfortable you might be to raise a concern: from company culture to managers' attitudes and behaviours and even how the economy is doing. Personal experience matters too. Is there a personal risk to speaking up, maybe because of difficult working relationships?

Confidential reporting can address this by protecting your identity when you raise a concern.

CIRAS gets your concerns straight to the decision-makers, confidentially. But this year we only had a third as many reports about non-Covid-19 health and safety concerns (such as fatigue, equipment issues and unsafe practices) as we had received by the same point last year.

If we think about why people might not speak up, we can see that confidential reporting provides an alternative route to raising concerns so that they aren't missed, because all concerns are important.

Safety culture

If you have a negative perception of your company's attitudes to safety, you might assume that managers do not care – perhaps because they take risks and unsafe shortcuts themselves – and so do not want to know about incidents or issues. This assumption that managers won't listen to health and safety concerns might make you pause before raising them. It might even make you decide not to.

However, companies cannot deal with issues unless they know about them, and the rail industry champions safety behaviours such as reporting concerns. Most companies in the rail industry have their own reporting channels and provide their people with access to CIRAS.

Using the confidential and independent service from CIRAS will get your concerns in front of the right people, who take safety seriously, and make sure you get a response without being identified.  We share the response with you and you can share feedback through us.

Fear of consequences

Under-reporting of safety issues may happen where people have got used to viewing incidents as inevitable, believe 'it could never happen here', and where people feel that they would be judged if they did speak up. Embarrassment, feeling responsible or being wary of punishment can stop some people reporting near-misses where human error is a factor.

Workplace cultures may have moved on, but individual attitudes and beliefs remain influential. And sometimes, sadly, workplaces haven't moved on and people fear reprisals if they speak up.

In psychologically safe environments, people are happy to discuss and question issues openly because they do not fear any negative consequences.

If you are not comfortable telling colleagues about a concern, confidential reporting can offer a safety valve. Some reporters have told us that they used CIRAS because they didn't want to be seen as a 'troublemaker'. Whether that fear is well founded or not, confidential reporting removes that worry.

Including everyone

Diversity may lead to an issue being noticed in the first place through introducing alternative perspectives. Diverse views can challenge assumptions.  But personal experiences may stop you speaking up. You might be the only person to identify a problem, but others wouldn't be aware unless you raise your concern.

You might feel uncomfortable speaking up if you don't feel you have influence or wouldn't be listened to, for example if you are younger or less experienced, or new to a team.

Confidential reporting is there if you are concerned about drawing attention to yourself – including if you are not confident that something really is an issue – but still want to do your bit by passing on the information.

Whoever you are, your concern matters, and however you report it, people want to hear about it.

Safety starts with you.