Whether it's Rail Safety Week, or any day, it's important to stay vigilant about safety concerns when there is change and potential risk. What might this look like and what are your options for speaking up and being listened to?

Railway track workers engineers working on track

Above: rail workers on track

Sadly, there are often risks that threaten the safety, health and wellbeing of workers and others on work sites. Known risks can be mitigated or prevented, and hazards addressed. But what about the risks that no one knows about? Maybe you yourself are aware of a safety issue, but haven’t told anyone yet.

There are many reasons why you might not have raised your health and safety concerns. Maybe you don’t know who to tell or how. You might think there’s no point: no one listens anyway, you think – and perhaps you are basing this on experience, such as with previous employers. Maybe you’ve been too busy. Or you are worried about how managers or colleagues could react. But in all these instances, nothing is done about the safety concern and it is still there.

That’s the issue. If you don’t speak up about something, who will? You might be the only one to have noticed a problem. If there’s an accident because of it, then this could stay on your mind. 

If you are not comfortable using your company’s reporting channels and want to report a concern without your managers or colleagues knowing who raised it, then CIRAS offers an alternative: a confidential reporting service. 

Raise your concerns and CIRAS will pass them, confidentially, to the relevant company so that it can act without knowing who you are. You can raise concerns through CIRAS for any company – not just your employer. CIRAS will share the company’s response and actions with you, so you will find out what happened because you decided to speak up.

You can report many different things through CIRAS – and did you know that issues relating to or caused by change is one of them?

Change is constant, and it comes with risk and potential safety issues. Even positive change can be hard: new equipment or technology can bring improvements to ways of working, but may present new hazards while people are learning about them.

Changes to the structure or size of a team, how a team communicates with other business areas, a new management reporting line, or a change in rules, processes and procedures – these can all lead to risks. Other risks might come from people’s understanding of what has changed, especially if it is not communicated effectively.

Sometimes there’s a risk if something doesn’t change when it should, such as old equipment being used when it is known to be unsuitable for a task, or used in a way it shouldn’t be. A safer choice or upgrade may be available.

Whatever it is that makes you feel less safe, raise your concern in the way that’s best for you – just make sure people know about it. It might be hard to identify exactly what the issue is – for example, the working culture, team dynamics or time pressures – but nothing will improve unless the company knows there is an issue. By reporting through CIRAS, you know your concern will reach the right people to do something and you’ll hear back.

With change ongoing in the rail industry in particular – but across transport and wider society – there will be the possibility of unexpected safety issues. So it is important to be vigilant and keep your eyes and ears open – and open your mouths too! Speak up. Don’t stay silent on safety. And CIRAS is here if you prefer to protect your identity.