Refocusing on health and safety

9 August 2017

By Ian Prosser, HM Chief Inspector of Railways.

Ian ProsserAs I was finishing off the eighth Annual Report since I became HM Chief Inspector of the railways, I reflected on a period of time in which the industry has put health and safety firmly at the centre of its operations.

When I started in 2008, tunnelling for Crossrail was still some way off, Section 2 of High Speed 1 was not finished and High Speed 2 was just a dream. Then, as today, we had a vision of “zero industry caused fatalities” through achieving excellence in health and safety management.

Following the tragedy on Croydon tram, we are working well and closely with the British Transport Police and the Rail Accident Investigation Branch.  We will ensure that recommendations from the investigations are fully considered by the industry and ourselves and that all appropriate action is taken.

Elsewhere, I am pleased to see that during this period of enormous change in the railway, the many organisations tasked with ensuring that passengers and staff enjoy a safe and efficient network are increasingly working together to embed health and safety at the heart of planning and day-to-day operation.

This year ORR published two ‘principles’ documents and revised our Strategic Risk Chapters to help companies adapt to the changing landscape. And the concept of ‘Safety by Design’ – where companies assess potential risks in the design phase of a project and then work to reduce that risk before it is built – has been taken up especially well on Crossrail and High Speed 2, as well as by current operators.

The Railway Industry Health and Safety Advisory Committee, which brings together partners in the industry, is spreading good practice and we have continued to work closely with regulators across Europe and offered advice, counsel and assistance to counterparts as far afield as United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong and Australia.

However, this year, I was concerned to note that the rate of improvement in health and safety on Britain’s railways has plateaued and, in addition to the tragedy of Croydon, there were other incidents which could have led to very serious outcomes.

We are not taking any of this lightly and, in response, we are working with Network Rail and others to ensure that the industry refocuses closely on health and safety and builds on the excellent progress we have made in the past nine years.