Rail Safety Summit 2018 Confirms Fragmented Safety

As a person who spends time daily delving into why failures still occur in businesses in relation to health and safety…


I really enjoyed attending my 2nd Rail Safety Summit event November 2018 at the Addleshaw Goddard office in our capital city.

This allowed me to get a different perspective on the new inspection processes, how engineering is heavily involved in progressing prevention and ultimately, who at the top is leading the delivery of a smarter, safer and faster rail system.

Why I attended!

I wanted to listen to the individual speakers perception on the industry wide safety culture. I needed to see the progress and proof on how certain areas of the rail industry are reacting and also how some are already excelling.

All this essential information was needed for me to evaluate how and why accidents still happen.

You may think quite sad, but this information collated, allows me to investigate many avenues of change to ultimately help others prevent harm and prevent duty holder’s from prosecution.


Did I achieve what I wanted?

Yes, as a member of the audience and not a speaker,  I really appreciated the opportunity to grasp the passion that comes from listening more than reading.

So attending this prestigious event allowed me to feel the passion these speakers have for prevention and protection.

Lilian Greenwood MP, Chair, Transport Select Committee put her passion across for change in this simple statement.

“to eradicate an unsafe act”


My findings!

Although enjoying the speakers, I did find a common theme running through all of the incidents shown on screen by the different speakers. FRAGMENTEDDISJOINTEDUNCONNECTED

Please see my notes took while sitting in the second row:

Explanation of my notes:

The black text is the recorded reason for the accident / the failure. The red text is my own opinion on why!

I quickly realised from going back over my notes, the failure was not singularly a 100% failure, but a bigger problem. A problem not all businesses may not openly confront or even identify exist.


All the companies in recent years who’ve had to deal with an accident, would of had one or many systems written down, recorded and possibly printed and in a frame hanging in the office reception.

Here is a broad selection of such requirements you should be able to relate too, maybe even have in place:

  • a company standard which states every high risk activity needs to have a Safe System of Work in place before the activity commences.
  • a company policy to check that every agency workers competence is checked before allowing the start of any work.
  • a verified way of measuring workers and contractors fatigue.
  • the company health and safety policy states, everyone must complete a risk assessment as required under the The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations of work 1999 regulation 3.
  • all companies have a notice board or intranet to share essential safety information.
  • businesses have a written scheme in place to report equipment failures up one level.
  • every company will have a recorded statement about health and wellness being paramount in their organisation. More than likely signed by the MD.
  • the companies will all have great one liners included in monthly campaigns such as “A collaborative workforce is a safer one”

So, if every company has many or all of these individual requirements in place (yes, you know you do?) why did the actual standards placed to prevent harm, failed to achieve what they was designed to?

What’s missing?

Companies who have everything written down, printed, displayed, but don’t have a holistic process in place to check systems and procedures are being adhered too, have simply wasted effort and time.

It is useless having a really nice policy and statement in place which is not been read, understood or adhered to, this type of standard and procedure is worthless.

Secondly, all the businesses who caused harm and who were subsequently prosecuted, failed to implement, failed to link up, failed in making their processes holistic.

George Bearfield, RSSB, Rail Delivery Group said this in his afternoon talk:

  • We all need to Unify
  • If you are strategically aligned, businesses can push in the right direction
  • Fragmented

To show how the key points of George Bearfield talk proved the point, I have annotated the original document.


What next?

This article is not written to continue on and detail every accident one by one, and then to show how if the company standards, procedure and code of conduct’s if enforced, checked and operational, would of ensured the workers and members of the public would of returned home safe!

I simply want to create awareness and help you evaluate, grab a coffee and think…

  • can I actually prove my risk assessments have been read and understood by workers and contractors?
  • do I actually know if the agency worker has the knowledge and competence to complete the task safely?
  • if an incident did happen, does my safe system of work actually include an adequate risk assessment, permit, method of operation, equipment and site provisions as required under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974?
  • do I really have the ability to check the workers and contractors under my responsibility are not working excessive hours and having adequate rest periods as recommended?
  • do my systems really allow any worker to report safety concerns?

If you are not confident in proving any/all of the above, then Richard Peters, Chief Medical Officer/Mental Health Champion, Network Rail short statement mid afternoon should help give you guidance in moving forward.

“Check where you are and the where you need to be”


Remember, none of the above is exceptionally hard to achieve, in fact, it’s the LAW.

Businesses and people have a legal and morale duty to ensure everyone goes home safely.


Thank you so much for taking the time to read this article, please get in touch to discuss anything detailed above as I do love to talk and learn.

Karl Spencer
Founder of Safety PAL


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