We spoke to Nathaniel Chambers, talent and training manager at Tram Operations, about his experience as a CIRAS rep, and in particular how and why he has introduced CIRAS into his organisation’s induction.

Every new starter at Tram Operations finds out how to report health and safety concerns, and where CIRAS fits into the picture.

How can a CIRAS rep make sure the organisation gets the most from its membership?

One thing that I need to do more myself is use the resources on the CIRAS members’ pages. I expect some members don’t utilise them to their best advantage, which is a shame because there's lots of advice and information that people can use and implement within their own companies. 

Another thing that I find useful is attending the CIRAS rep events. I found these to be professional and well researched, often mirroring evidence I found in my own research efforts. Which is always reassuring! Although our drivers don’t attend these events, we pass information to them on their safety days and on routine
training days.

What’s the best way to ensure your staff know about and understand CIRAS?

Currently, the best way to ensure they know about CIRAS is through ‘phased promotion’. What I mean by that is, rather than having one poster in a static location, we move the posters around various places, such as different mess rooms. We ring the changes, using posters with different images and layouts, so people don't get used to them and start to disregard them.

We are in the process of moving from paper-based to digital means of communicating with our staff. As we move to the digital realm, we share information through a company app called TOL Connect. We’ll also use Yammer, e-mails and briefings via staff members’ new tablets. As well as electronic copies of Frontline Matters, we post links to the CIRAS website on our internal website and invite people to have a browse. We do still put hard copies of Frontline Matters out in our four
breakout areas.  

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

Yes.  When I first started at Tram Operations, I was repeatedly asked, ‘Who are CIRAS?’. The biggest challenge has been getting over suspicion of the reporting process. Communicating honestly about what CIRAS is and how it works helps overcome this. With senior managers and leaders who might appear sceptical initially, they then always get on board after I explain that CIRAS is not trying to discourage staff from speaking up internally. It helps that I also try to emphasise that we can use the report to highlight things that we can improve.

How does CIRAS feature in your induction, and why?

The induction programme is designed so it can be tailored to the specific needs of each new employee. There’s a lot of information a new team member has to take on board, so the programme sessions vary in duration depending on what previous experience they have. The induction covers a range of things including safety policies, systems and procedures, including how to report safety concerns.

Safety is an integral part of what we do here at Tram Operations, so it’s only logical that our values stress the importance of personal accountability and reporting health and safety concerns. It’s important that our new starters are made aware of all the ways they can report, including the existence of an independent place for them to raise their concerns if they feel they are not being taken seriously when they speak up internally in the first instance. 

What advice would you give someone thinking of including CIRAS in their induction?

I’d advise them to talk to their CIRAS stakeholder manager first. They can help you tailor a CIRAS presentation to suit your specific requirements and reflect your organisation’s values. The presentation that CIRAS created for us certainly does that, as it talks about some of the potential dangers of working in the rail and light rail industry, but it balances this with interactive engagement which makes the delegates feel welcome. This ties in with the general theme of the Tram Operations induction. Having the stakeholder manager attend and even deliver the presentation reinforces the message that CIRAS is independent from your organisation but works to ensure you hear the concerns of your people so you can find resolutions. 


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