Liam Linford-Smith, health and safety advisor for Civil Rail Solutions Ltd (CRS) since 2019, tells us what he thinks makes a good CIRAS rep, and how his team are responding to Covid-19.

Liam joined the railway industry after he left the Army in 2002, and has been the CIRAS rep for CRS since he joined the business.  CRS provides manpower solutions to the rail and infrastructure industry, and Liam is responsible for CRS’s safety systems and procedures.

Liam Linford-Smith

What do you think is the key role of the CIRAS rep?

I think a CIRAS rep should be the focal point in the organisation for helping to deliver CIRAS’ mission – to listen to health, wellbeing and safety concerns, where staff feel they can’t use internal reporting channels.  For me, that means promoting CIRAS to my colleagues and, if we get a report, acting in a positive manner to facilitate a good quality response.

I also think it’s important to participate in CIRAS’ learning events, which provide learning and good practice to strengthen and broaden knowledge. 

How do you promote CIRAS and safety across your organisation?

I’ve used CIRAS’ website to order leaflets, information cards, key rings and pens – and I download the posters, which I display in our reception and circulate around the company.  

What’s the best way to ensure staff and the contractors on your books know about CIRAS?

When people are inducted, I have a slide that talks about CIRAS.  It explains why you would contact CIRAS, and how to do it if required.  I hand out CIRAS information cards along with my business card so that they have the right points of contact.  I do ask them to come to me first and give me the opportunity to fix things – but I also explain that if I don’t do this satisfactorily, or they want to keep their identity hidden, CIRAS is the right place to go.   

What would you say to a colleague who felt negative about the prospect of receiving a CIRAS report?

I would encourage them to always approach any concern raised with a positive attitude, and that most, if not all, issues can be resolved.

How do you get the most out of your CIRAS membership – even if you haven’t had a report?

To date, CRS has not received any reports.  However, it is reassuring to know that CIRAS is there, giving staff the confidence to know they can report health and safety concerns confidentially.  I like to use the members’ area of the website as it provides a host of relevant information, such as the Membership Matters newsletter and case studies.  I also enjoy the learning events – it’s useful to meet other reps and learn from what they do in their organisations.  For example, we amended our mental health procedures after hearing about another CIRAS member’s mental health programme at a CIRAS event.

Are there any challenges to being a CIRAS rep and how do you deal with them?

I’ve not had any issues or challenges personally, so far – but if I did, I am confident that my stakeholder manager Amanda O’Donoghue would help to guide and advise if needed.

Are staff raising concerns relating to Covid-19 – and do you have any good practice to share?

We’ve been very vigilant in complying with guidance in relation to Covid-19.  We’re briefing all our staff regularly on current government requirements and guidelines and our clients’ standard operating procedures. We’ve implemented measures for staff to help prevent infection, such as hiring extra vehicles to enable social distancing and sourcing better vehicle cleaning products.

The business has also changed some management procedures to align to the best practice available.  For example, we have reviewed our return to work procedure and added an appendix for additional questioning in relation to the known symptoms of Covid-19.  We’ve also reviewed and deployed our business continuity plan to ensure staff can work from home, so they can continue to help our clients support the rail network. 


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