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RSSB consultation on a future strategy for rail health and safety

10 December 2015

The railway industry has decided that going forward, it will formulate a strategy document entitled “Leading Health and Safety on Britain’s Railway – a strategy for working together”. This purpose of this document is to provide guidance to industry organisations rather than being a prescriptive document.

RSSB consultation on a future strategy for rail health and safety

The Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) is the body that co-ordinates the privatised rail industry’s many organisations to allow the making of collective decisions relating to health and safety. Through research, the understanding of risk, and analysis, RSSB helps the rail industry in the areas of health and safety standards, knowledge and innovation. It also supports the railway industry across a wide range of cross-industry health and safety topics that require RSSB’s knowledge and independent views.

The railway industry has decided that going forward, it will formulate a strategy document entitled “Leading Health and Safety on Britain’s Railway – a strategy for working together”. This purpose of this document is to provide guidance to industry organisations rather than being a prescriptive document. It has three aims:

· to provide a focus for leadership in key areas where increased collaboration will deliver benefits;

· to suggest/identify collaborative strategies where cross-industry actions will deliver improved management of health and safety risk;

· to be a reference point for how health and safety is managed on the modern railway.

RSSB has published a consultation document and has sought views from industry stakeholders including trade unions.

TSSA has made a submission which is appended to this circular for your information.

Appendix to TSSA Circular 329 dated 10 December 2015.

 

TSSA Response to RSSB CONSULTATION DOCUMENT: “LEADING HEALTH AND SAFETY ON BRITAIN’S RAILWAY – A STRATEGY FOR WORKING TOGETHER”

Introduction

TSSA is pleased to be able to contribute to this consultation and does so on the basis that the Union has a significant number of members who work in the UK rail industry, including within Network Rail and all of the TOCS, FOCs and infrastructure companies.

The Union is supportive of the overall thrust of the strategy that is seeking to produce greater cooperation and collaboration between railway duty holders and others in relation to specific health and safety risk areas. As you will see from our response, however, we feel that there are areas where cooperation and collaboration is often much weaker and which could undermine attempts to bring about improvements.

TSSA would also point out that whilst it is to be welcomed that statistically, Britain’s railway is one of the safest in the world, there is no room for complacency. Just one serious accident would change the perception if not the statistical reality of this record. For instance, had the recent SPAD at Wootton Bassett that involved a steam locomotive and a HST actually resulted in a high energy collision, the potentially catastrophic loss of life of that one incident would have massively changed public and political perceptions.

In our response we have adopted the chapter headings of the consultation document so that it is easier for RSSB to relate our points to the text.

Chapter 2: Working together
The wise would suggest that the industry has been fortunate in the past few years. The introduction of SMIS+ will be very useful in understanding just how fortunate. Its usefulness will very much depend on the quality and quantity of the data inputted, and that will depend on the commitment of industry players to gather and record that data. TSSA will do all it can to encourage the workforce to do so.

Maturity of collaboration (page 16) Senior safety leaders in the industry may be committed to improve health, safety and welfare. However, many of their stated policy positions and good intentions are at odds with the day to day experience of front line managers who find themselves under intense pressure to put performance above health, safety and welfare. Some inevitably succumb to that pressure. That culture is still there, and must be addressed and changed. Management processes need to take more account of health and safety performance, including when financially incentivising managers, and that will require more rigorous measures and audits.

Most of the key risk areas have cross industry groups playing a role in raising the industry's maturity in collaboration and safety management, and it is welcomed that most of these involve trade unions. However these groups seem to be attended by company safety professionals and managers who are already committed to collaboration. There is a built in “Catch 22”, in that those that most need to collaborate do not participate in the collaborative structures. It is important that co-operative and collaborative strategies achieve a much wider participation from front line managers and supervisors, and are more representative; those that attend the meetings must ensure they genuinely represent their sector, including seeking views from colleagues before meetings and feeding back to colleagues in their company and others in the sector they represent after meetings.

The commitment by those leaders to co-operation and collaboration is often seemingly undermined by commercial and other rivalries, perhaps inevitable in a fragmented and privatised industry. The failure of different players to co-operate and collaborate in degraded station situations at Finsbury Park and London Bridge during 2015 leading to crowding problems are but two examples of this.

However, even companies within the same ‘owning group’ seem to be strangely reluctant to develop common industry strategies. For example, when it comes to strategy, TOCs appear to be far more autonomous from each other within owning groups than one might reasonably expect from companies committed to ‘co-operation or collaboration’.

This state of affairs does not bode well should the government pursue its stated aim of fragmenting the industry still further. RSSB has played a key part in seeking solutions to overcome issues and difficulties associated with such fragmentation, and it would almost certainly require more resources and even greater commitment from industry players should further fragmentation take place in order to avoid a reversal of safety performance improvements.

Chapter 3: How is health and safety managed on the modern railway?
Suitable legislation clearly must underpin railway health and safety. Whilst rail industry employers are clearly subject to legislation, it is clearly not always complied with. An illustration of this is the fact that some TOCs in particular ignore and in some cases actively seek to circumvent the DSE Regulations.

It is regrettable that this government has chosen to take steps to attempt to dilute legislation, although ORR must be congratulated for largely resisting this in the rail industry. However, it seems likely that further attempts will be made in the name of ‘cutting red tape’.

More serious is this government’s assault on trade unions, with them pursuing a legislative strategy in the form of the Trade Union Bill that will severely weaken the ability of the trade unions to effectively ensure enforcement of that legislation. In particular, restrictions on the time that union reps in public sector employers can be released from their normal jobs will have a devastating impact on established employer – union health and safety collaboration.

The consultation document needs to make clear the vital role of trade unions, their members, and especially their health and safety reps, in ensuring that voice of the rail industry workforce is heard, and that the workforce through the representative structures are properly consulted about health and safety, especially at a strategic level.

Section 3.3: Our framework for cooperation
The document is written as a discussion between duty holders and lists some other groups with an input (eg, DfT) but only refers to trade unions on specific issues (eg, Fatigue or Assaults) and leaves the impression that they have little to actually say. At best, the unions are not seen as a part of the process of increased cooperation and collaboration but as under the process, only to be involved in certain areas. This may be because the unions are not duty holders but it also suggests the representatives of the staff are not regarded as the stakeholders that they are (even if not duty holders).For instance, Table 2 onpage 25 does not include trade unions and yet for the last few years there has been the annual RSSB sponsored Westwood event involving trade union reps whilst at the same time the trade unions are involved in various bodies associated with the System Safety Risk Group (SSRG) alongside duty holder representatives. We would suggest that there needs to be a recognition of that the trade unions are a part of attempts to improve cooperation and collaboration.

TSSA is also keen that the role of community stakeholders is also considered, particularly organised groups and bodies. There is clearly a role to play for passenger user groups as well as those that represent such as the disabled and older people in being consulted on the design of all public aspects of the railway, including stations and trains, so that as much of society as is possible is able to safely use rail passenger services.

Section 3.4: A culture of sharing and reporting
The document fails to refer to the role of safety reps or of working with them at any level. We appreciate that the paper is high level but it would seem to us that RSSB should be encouraging collaboration with union reps as part of a culture of cooperation and collaboration so that there is a change of culture within companies - and in fulfilment of the reps legal role (eg, involvement with inspections, risk assessments, etc) rather than just ignoring them. If there is an issue of inadequatetraining of reps resulting in their poor participation or contribution, perhaps employers should be prepared to allow attendance beyond Stage 1 TUC and not impede reps in their development by refusing to release themor, in some cases, actively working against them (including by ignoring them). Too often, we are left with the impression that employees are largely "done to" rather than asked to "contribute."

Examples of positive outcomes from the involvement of trade unions at all levels including the national strategic level would be welcomed. An example would be the examination of fatigue and stress issues amongst managers. In a ground-breaking initiative, GWR is currently working collaboratively with both TSSA and RSSB on this area. TSSA is working closely with Network Rail on addressing the issues arising from the introduction of Planning & Delivery of Safe Work. The unions were instrumental in working with ORR on a conference for H&S reps in November 2015 on equalities and diversity and the link with health, safety and welfare. This covered issues such as neurodiversity, the aging workforce, gender specific issues, and cognitive impairment.

The massive increase in both passenger traffic and investment presents a particular challenge to the industry when it comes to safety. TSSA believes that all too often, little attention is paid to the health and safety of the workforce when stations, depots and other facilities are constructed. There is at least some evidence to suggest that Crossrail and HS2 are likely to repeat the same mistakes of the current industry players. There is a huge opportunity to ‘design out’ many of the problems and issues of the existing railway – but will this actually happen?

Section 4.3: How are those capabilities going to be improved?
Page 34 lists"Develop our People" and "Design and Change Management" but contains no ideas. Why, if this document is not going to be reviewed until just before CP6? These are key areas for staff and union reps.

Section 5.2: Monitoring
TSSA wants to make the point about a failure tocooperate on risk assessments. The whole of the consultation document is about getting better at safety management but too often our experience is that when it comes to risk assessments there is a deliberate failure to comply with the SRSC Regulations 1977 (as amended). We believe the RSSB document is an opportunity to make a statement to the industry duty holders about their HSAWA duties and that to improve their overall safety performance they must work with staff and their representatives both to comply with the law and because of the experience that this brings in terms of those people who carry out the job on the ground or who work at the particular site or office.

Part B Priorities for working together – 3, Road Risk (pages 44-46)
It is good to see the recognition of the risks associated with road transport, including taxis for staff where the provider has to maintain records for each of their staff. The use of taxis is widespread, including for transporting staff to work when trains aren’t running. In one example, a TSSA member was killed when he was being taxied to the Swindon Control Office because a fatigued taxi driver swerved and hit a tree that collapsed and killed our member who was in the back of the car. We would ask how many private hire taxi companies actually monitor their drivers’ hours because it seems that many such firmsregard drivers as self-employed with the relationship not much more than the provision of a rent for aradio or electronicjob display device. This also provokes issues of monitoring and auditing the performance of taxi companies to see if they really are complying with recoding hours accurately.

Page 45 also mentions therisks from road driving connected to fatigue and at page 46 talks about approaches to this problem including a better awareness of the issue and company planning. For workers, the issue is connected withemployment conditions and theemployer's approach to whether driving ispart of the shift (and thus paid) or outside of it (and not paid) because where staff have to travel to a site before they start productive work,the firm can be reluctant to pay travelling time. Our concern here is that it is all very well having a greater awareness and better planning but if payment issues or provision of hotel accommodation aren't addressed the issue will not be eradicated.

Part B Priorities for working together – 4, Fatigue (pages 47-50)
Whilst we appreciating that this a high level document, we would relate to you the issue of managers who are on call. It is certainly our experience that in some companies on call managers are expected to be at their desks at the usual start time even if they have been on call (and answered calls or attended site) all night. In those cases where TSSA has been approached by members we have endeavoured to negotiate systems that ensure sufficient (11 hours) rest is taken between the last call and the return to the “day job” but it would be remiss of us not to draw attention to this potential problem, especially when we are aware that some managers have in the past been pressured into ignoring it.

Part B Priorities for working together – 6, Workforce health and wellbeing
We would question the statement at the beginning ofthis section thatwellbeing isnot covered legally by HSAWA. The 1974 Act is about health, safety and welfare(eg, see section 2(2)(e) ofHSAWA) and well-being is about the effects of work in terms of, say, stress. As a term, ‘well-being’ is a modern idea designed to push the burden more to the employee by emphasising coping mechanisms like mindfulness and resilience whilst attempting to ignore duties under section 2(1) of the HSAWA legislation. The RSSB and ORRhave done a lot of excellent work around well-being, identifying issues of presenteeism and absence but also focusing on problems like stress and musclo-skeletal injury that originate from work. We would contend that where well-being relates to issues in work, recognising the effects of things like job design, work processes, etc, that undermine the employee's well-being, these are things controlled by the employer and thus come under the legislation.

Conclusion
Drawing our response together leads us to re-iterate our general support for enhanced cooperation and collaboration to extract improvements within leadership of health and safety on Britain’s railways. That support, however, is caveated by making the case for the need to recognise the role played by trade unions as a stake holder. The unions’ stakeholder role exists at all levels and as such we have drawn attention to the failure by employers in areas such as the DSE requirements and around union reps’ involvement with risk assessments. We have also highlighted the differences that exist between what a company says at the top level and then how they incentive managers to put performance (and thus profit) above other considerations.

 

 

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