Research suggests that people tend to ignore low probability, high consequence risks. It’s not unusual for us to think ‘it’ll never happen to me’ or to be less prepared for things which rarely happen. So how do we equip people with the ownership and skill to adopt behaviours which reduce these risks? In October, the Trackworker Safety Alliance (TSA) ran an event which employed scenarios to engage participants in ‘living the consequences’ of serious incidents. CIRAS’ Katie Healy reports back on the event.

The aim of the event was to help all staff, from frontline to management, understand the wider consequences when a serious incident takes place – including how they might be personally affected. It was inspired by similar sessions held in Network Rail. The session split attendees into groups to explore two hypothetical incidents:

  • A road traffic accident (RTA): An employee left home, drove up the A1 and hit the rear of another car, causing them to collide with the central barrier. In this scenario the employee was speeding, it was wet and cool, and the vehicle had defective windscreen washers and borderline defective tyres. The driver of the vehicle that was hit suffered fatal injuries.
  • An onsite incident: Two employees were struck by the boom of a road rail vehicle.  It was the fourth day of a five-day job. A site induction had been given to some employees on the first day, but the following daily briefings were limited. The two employees who were hit were standing with the COSS in the exclusion zone, and one later died of his injuries. 

Participants explored the potential root causes of these incidents, such as the reasons the employee was speeding and why the employees were in the exclusion zone. They considered what the underlying factors might be, whether they were preventable and who should investigate the incidents. 

Mock hearing 

After the groups discussed their scenarios, the TSA held a mock hearing with a Presiding Justice passing sentence against the guilty parties.

  • The RTA:  The company was prosecuted under Sections 2 and 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 for failing to show a duty of care to its employee and to everyone else. The employee faced charges under Section 7 of the Act, as he had failed to take reasonable care of himself or others by acts or omissions - in this case, by not taking appropriate care of his vehicle or considering the impact of his actions on others. He could also face separate criminal driving offence charges.
  • The onside incident: The COSS and Machine Controller were prosecuted under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Both received community orders, and the Machine Controller also received a suspended custodial sentence. The Presiding Justice issued the company with a significant fine.

It could be you 

A critical learning point from the event was that it’s not just companies who might face prosecution in the aftermath of a serious safety incident. Individuals should be mindful that that they may face personal prosecution under certain circumstances, for example by virtue of a deliberate act of wrongdoing, or by failing to follow correct procedure. Critically, a failure to act can also be an offence. 

Could your staff learn from a similar scenario-based eventTo find out more about the TSA event contact NR’s Adrian Fricker at