We revisit some of the railway safety concerns raised with us in 2000 and 2001 – five years after the foundation of CIRAS. 

25 years of CIRAS anniversary logo

We are celebrating our 25th year of listening to your health, safety and wellbeing concerns confidentially. A lot can change in 25 years, especially in health and safety. Here, we look back at some of the concerns people in the rail industry raised with us 20 years ago, in 2000 and 2001. 

Are these concerns still relevant to you today? Do you recognise any of the issues raised? Or maybe you can see how changes in safety procedures, technology, equipment, and culture can mean that issues become less of a problem – or disappear altogether – from certain workplaces over time. 

Lineside scrap rail 

A contractor reported continuous welded rails, block joints and other pieces of rail being left in the four foot, six foot and cess. They were concerned that these rails might be taken by trespassers on the railway and positioned on the running line, potentially causing a derailment. The response mentioned the start of a new structured scrap clearance programme, with high-risk sites prioritised. 

Safe system of work 

We received a report about a work group carrying out maintenance in a Red Zone without an appointed COSS or lookout. The reporter thought this could be due to a lack of resources, and that it wasn’t an isolated incident.   

The company’s response clarified the procedure and advised staff to invoke the ‘refusal to work’ procedure if this is breached. It also added a reminder to its monthly safety briefing to all staff.   

Passenger train interface 

A reporter told us that around 170 schoolchildren were congregating on a platform every day, at the same time as two Class 153s were being coupled together. Despite warnings from staff, some were leaning on the train during the coupling process to increase their chances of boarding first when the doors opened. This had already led to a serious accident, when one youth fell between the train and platform, and the reporter felt it was only a matter of time before it happened again.   

The response included introducing yellow lines and CCTV, better warning announcements and signage, and liaison with local schools and parents.   

Safety of equipment  

We received a report about wheeled equipment being left unattended and unsecured (no brakes applied) on station platforms, leading on one occasion to a trolley running off the platform onto the track. The reporter was concerned that not enough was being done to establish clear procedures and controls to prevent similar incidents compromising staff and passenger safety again.   

The response was a comprehensive survey of all wheeled equipment and new control measures to prevent the type of incident the reporter described. The company also rebriefed all staff and contractors on the safe use of equipment in stations.  

Speak up for safety 

It’s often a serious accident – or other major event, such as the Covid-19 pandemic – that stimulates fresh thinking on health, safety, and safety culture. Similarly, new technology, or organisational and industry change can create new risks and lead to new safety processes, procedures, rules, and regulations. At other times, change might be triggered by close calls, reported near misses or other safety reports, such as CIRAS reports. 

If you do have a concern about health, safety, or wellbeing – whatever it is – you can raise it confidentially using CIRAS if you don’t feel comfortable telling your line manager or using your company’s channels. You can also raise it with us confidentially if you have already reported it internally. You can raise a concern for a company through CIRAS whether you work for that company or not. 

CIRAS has been here for you for 25 years, and we’re still here to help you speak up for safety into the future.  

Raise a concern now

Follow the story of 25 years of CIRAS