Stagecoach UK Bus has been a member of CIRAS since June 2019. Jo Lewis, head of safety, was the first CIRAS rep at Stagecoach but recently handed over to new rep Emma Fisher. Before she went, we asked Jo to share some of her experiences in embedding CIRAS and making it a successful part of the Stagecoach approach to safety.

Why did Stagecoach join CIRAS?

Our ongoing programme, ‘Safety Always’, aims to make everyone in our business a safety leader. Key to this is empowering people to raise safety concerns. We would love to think people could always raise things internally with us, but in the real world it’s not always possible.

To ensure everyone is included, we wanted to give all our staff the means and confidence to raise their concerns – even where they don’t feel they can do this internally. CIRAS fits perfectly with that wider strategy. It gives staff an extra opportunity to report things, so we get to hear about them.

A year on has CIRAS met your expectations?

I would say that yes, CIRAS has done what we thought it would do this year. We’re just a year in so people are still getting used to the service. We had an initial flurry of reports – probably people testing the water, which is a good thing – but it’s settled down.

It’s interesting to see what people are reporting about. Some reports have been about faults, and we do have a fault reporting system in place, so a CIRAS report potentially highlights where processes and procedures might not be working as planned.Often the concerns raised are things we know about as a business already, but this can highlight where we might not be communicating as well as we could to keep our staff informed of the work we carry out.  

Have CIRAS reports led to any improvements?

As well as leading to specific local safety improvements made on the back of reports, CIRAS has been part of a wider initiative to embed safety leadership in our business. And we are noticing a difference over time. CIRAS is working together with other initiatives to make everyone a safety leader, recognising that everybody has a voice.

Embedding the CIRAS service – what’s worked and what have you learned?

With just a small central team and a widely dispersed workforce, a key challenge for us is getting the word out and involving our local people in responding to concerns.

We created CIRAS champions in each of our 19 operational companies. Any concerns raised are co-ordinated through our central team, so we keep an overview of issues across the company. However, our champions (mostly local managing directors) bring their expertise to bear in helping respond to concerns on their patch. It’s worked well for us – and having champions at such a senior level has helped ensure buy-in of CIRAS across our wider company. Having this network has also helped with cascading information about CIRAS across our business and ensured consistency of message. Two other important success factors have been getting senior buy-in and picking the right rep. It’s important that the rep really understands and supports what CIRAS does.

A year on, the structure we’ve put in place is working for us, but we’d like to keep improving. For example, we’d like to cascade more information and share more learning from reports. A challenge we need to overcome is how to make lessons from a local report applicable to other parts of the business. 

How are you promoting the CIRAS service?

We started off by inviting CIRAS to have a stand at our three safety conferences in London, Manchester and Glasgow in February and March last year. This allowed us to get the message out to 1,500 of our people before we launched CIRAS and this really helped.

We launched the service with articles in our internal newsletter and information on our BLINK internal communications app. And we have worked to raise awareness of CIRAS with our union reps and through our operational company safety forums. We provided information cards to all our operational companies, with details of both CIRAS and our whistleblowing service, recognising that both channels have a place in the business.


How has Covid-19 affected reporting behaviour – what might that mean in future?

We’ve seen a real increase in internal reporting, with people going direct to their managers. It’s interesting that this has happened in response to a single high-profile issue. There’s been a strong focus on internal communications around Covid-19 which may have helped. The challenge will be as we go back to ‘normal’ with its range of different health and safety issues.  As day to day life returns, will people still feel comfortable reporting these internally?

So, what’s next?

Across all of our workforce, we need to look at reinforcing and refreshing the message. We want to pick up on our safety forums and get CIRAS in to engage more with our frontline staff. 

What advice would you give someone thinking of adopting CIRAS?

Plan your launch carefully – take a slow and steady approach to land the message. If you’re a large company, adopt champions to ensure local ownership. Engage with unions and safety reps who can help it work on the ground. And get regular, consistent messaging out to your staff.

(Note: CIRAS provides a guide to promoting the service and a range of support tools and resources on the website member portal. If you need us to resend your login details, please just get in touch.)