Our article in Rail Infrastructure magazine issue 145 asks you to speak up about your safety concerns however you prefer and take a load off your mind for the new year.

Speaking up about your health and safety concerns can be daunting for many reasons, but would you be more likely to share them if no one knew it was you who raised them? And what if you also received a response from the people who can do something about them?

CIRAS is an independent confidential reporting service for transport and construction. If you raise a health, safety or wellbeing concern with us, we keep your identity confidential when we share your concern with the appropriate company to resolve the issue. We also make sure that you receive a response so you know what action has been taken because you decided to speak up.

Railway construction scene trackside with workers

Above: You might notice something no one else does, so it is important to speak up.

Why share concerns?

It is important to speak up for safety, whether you want to share your thoughts in confidence or talk directly to a line manager or supervisor. Choosing not to say anything at all is still a choice, and choices can have consequences.

You might notice an issue that no one else does, even if it is just that something is not right in your workplace and you do not know what that could mean for safety! For example, heavy items being stored insecurely, possibly injuring passers-by if they came loose; a bare wire that could cause an electrical fire; or a trip hazard that is continually ignored.

Maybe you are concerned about the effects of work practices on your own and co-workers' health. It might be that you are breathing in fumes while working in an area without the right ventilation, having to use equipment in an unsuitable way – potentially causing musculoskeletal problems or injury – or that the way work is planned makes fatigue almost inevitable and accidents more likely.

You cannot know that something you have noticed or are concerned about has already been reported. And if you do not speak up, then nothing will change – so it is better to be safe than sorry.

Railway construction scene trackside with workers

Above: Wherever you work on the railway and beyond, we will listen to your concerns

What can you report?

At CIRAS, we listen to all your genuine health and safety concerns – including some you might not have thought about. If you feel that work is negatively impacting your wellbeing and you are concerned that this could affect your performance at work and lead to an accident, you can raise this with us and we will share the concern with your employer while protecting your identity. You may be worried about working culture, hours, workload, and the systems to support you, and we can listen to those concerns, too.

Change often brings new risks. These might come from how the change is communicated and people's understanding of what has changed, but the change itself may also create risks. These can cause health and safety issues if not suitably mitigated, so it is worth speaking up if anything concerns you about changes that are ongoing, in the past or soon to happen.

One example of an issue raised with us was the way that Persons in Charge of Possession (PICOPs) were communicating with signallers about T3 possessions, as some were using an old method of work. This had the potential to cause misunderstandings and even a fatality. A reminder of the instructions was then sent out through an operational alert and circulated to others via the planning team. 

Personal safety could be on your mind. Working nights, you might feel unsafe in uncertain locations, especially if you work alone. There may be the threat of antisocial behaviour or abuse. Raising a concern through CIRAS means your employer can hear what you really feel about this, where you feel the risks are and what could be done – without them knowing who you are.

Our reporting analysts will keep your concern confidential by removing any information that could identify you before we send your concern to the company.

We cannot take concerns about individuals, such as grievances or concerns about someone's drug or alcohol problem. This is to protect confidentiality, but also in the case of drugs and alcohol because it is a real-time safety concern. We do not take forward real-time concerns, where something poses an immediate risk to health and safety, because it will be more effective and safer to take the concern directly to the person who can act on it. But, if you call us, we will give you the appropriate contact details for your situation. If in doubt, give us a shout.

Start your 2022 with peace of mind and get your concerns off your chest – we are listening.

Raise a concern using CIRAS