Frontline rail staff and train operators are facing increased challenges. CIRAS rep Stuart told us about tackling these in partnership, and how a culture of listening improves visibility of the risks.


Above: Stuart Browning

How long have you been at Trenitalia c2c and what do you do there?

I’ve been at Trenitalia c2c for just over a year now, and I’m the safety, sustainability, and compliance director. That means I’m responsible for making sure we operate a safe railway for our colleagues and customers, and that we have a positive impact on the environment and local communities.

What do you think is the key health or safety issue for train operating companies now?

Ongoing, post-pandemic societal and political challenges are really putting pressure on the industry, and driving unwanted behaviours from some people who use the railway.

These pressures are impacting the industry’s ability to recover from the pandemic as quickly and effectively as other rail businesses outside of the UK. This all increases the stresses on our customers and our people, and we’re seeing more antisocial behaviour and aggression towards colleagues as a result.

How is c2c addressing this?

We’re working closely with the British Transport Police, trade union health and safety representatives, local authorities, and other stakeholders to build a comprehensive programme of initiatives and mitigations. This includes:

  • greater resourcing—more staff with greater visibility at stations and on-board our trains
  • technology to help prevent conflict, provide assurances, and help secure convictions where offences are committed, such as body-worn CCTV
  • conflict-avoidance training and implementing good practices from across the industry
  • targeting known and persistent offenders with existing legal tools, including introducing Withdrawal of Implied Permission letters
  • targeting hotspot locations with tactical revenue protection and security operations to make doing the right thing—travelling with a valid ticket—the easiest thing to do.

What do you think is the biggest barrier to people reporting health and safety risks?

There are often several reasons why people find it hard to report risks. These are different for everyone and are often associated with the micro-culture within teams.

It’s our job to make reporting risks easy, and to make the connection between reporting and seeing things get fixed. We must also look out for any negative cultures in the business and work to move them to a better place.

The first and most powerful thing is to celebrate when colleagues do tell us where things aren’t as they should be. I’d much rather be sighted on an issue, no matter how challenging. Then, we can do something about it before someone or something comes to harm.

With the help of a cross-section of the c2c team, we recently created a short film. We wanted to land the message that walking by a problem can lead to devastating consequences. It uses the famous safety poem, ‘I chose to look the other way’, written by now-retired American safety professional, Don Merrell. It is a powerful reminder that we can all choose to do the right thing. We’re using this video internally in our core safety briefing process. That’s where we remind people of close-call reporting and the CIRAS confidential safety hotline, and the opportunities everyone has to intervene and save a life.

Do you think some things go unreported at c2c?

Of course, but with the help of our partner CIRAS, I think we’re making really good progress in increasing the number of reports we’re hearing about.

In the past year, we’ve seen our close-call reporting increase significantly. This is for several reasons. Firstly, we’ve made it easier to file a report by issuing mobile devices to all colleagues, and creating a simple and quick way to capture the information. This system is supported by a process that ensures reports go to the right people for action and then provides feedback to the reporter. We’ve also invested in the competence of our frontline management team, through delivering NEBOSH general certificate training.

Does c2c have a listening culture?

I believe we’ve made significant progress in this area. I’m confident that my colleagues in the executive team are now far more tuned in to the feedback that the organisation provides on safety issues. We have more work to do, to filter that culture of listening through to our management team, but the early signs are positive.

We’ve made clear commitments to tackling any issues raised in a positive way, and that’s really making a difference.

Why do you think CIRAS is important?

CIRAS is an essential tool in our kit. We’ll probably never be able to give everyone in the organisation the confidence to report all the safety issues that they see openly. That might be because they’ve had poor experiences in the past.

We must recognise that some colleagues will always feel more comfortable using a confidential service to share their concerns. That’s absolutely fine by me. My main concern is that we get visibility of the risks, and if CIRAS can give people the confidence to make the report then that’s a win.

How do you raise awareness of CIRAS across c2c?

Whenever we talk about reporting, we include CIRAS as part of the conversation. It’s simply one option that sits alongside the options we have available internally. CIRAS colleagues join us at our annual safety conference and have appeared in videos for our core safety briefs.

CIRAS is absolutely part of our team, and will always be promoted as a trusted partner to our colleagues.

Tell us about a CIRAS report that has really helped to make a change in health and safety at c2c.

We received a report last year about antisocial behaviour and violence that colleagues on the frontline were experiencing. It was very easy to respond by outlining the comprehensive programme of activities we have in place to tackle the issue. But it made us realise that we hadn’t been very good at telling people, or at engaging colleagues in the initiatives themselves.

As a result, we very quickly changed how we engage with staff, and we now talk more frequently and openly about the work that’s being done. It was a helpful opportunity to learn about the effectiveness of our approach.  

Find out more

Watch c2c’s new safety film, ‘I chose to look the other way’

How c2c is tackling the risks of workplace violence

Rep profile: Rebecca Higgins, East Midlands Railway