What rail managers need to know on occupational health - good practice guidance

Detailed good practice guidance on the core areas on occupational health that most front line rail managers will need to understand.

We have identified a number of key health management topics which we believe most front line managers in the rail industry will need to understand.

The depth of knowledge and level of detail will vary depending of the nature and extent of the potential health risks, as well as local factors including the amount of specialist support available to the individual manager.

Occupational health training should enable managers to do their job better and work more effectively with qualified occupational health practitioners.

The summary of core knowledge requirements below is not intended to be a comprehensive list, and does not cover all specific legal requirements relating to occupational health.

It aims to provide a starting point for rail companies to use as part of a training needs analysis for those managers that have front line involvement in, or responsibility for, managing occupational health risks.

Managers will also need to understand the policies and procedures in place in your business for controlling occupational health risks.

Core knowledge areas on occupational health for rail managers

A. Understanding the need for effective management of work related ill health, including:

  • Key relevant legal requirements under health and safety (and also equality) law; and
  • The business case for preventing work related ill health (including the extent of work related ill health), beyond costs to include the wider business benefits.

B. Health risk assessment – principles and methods of assessing risks to health from:

  • Chemical hazards - substances hazardous to health, including recognised or potential carcinogens (such as asbestos, silica, and diesel engine exhaust emissions), sensitisers (such as isocyanates, cement, epoxy resins), and process by-products such as dust and fume;
  • Physical hazards – including noise, vibration, musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), and radiation (where relevant);
  • Psychological hazards – work related stress, including HSE Management Standards approach to assessing and managing stress risk at an organisational rather than individual level;
  • Biological hazards – including from bacteria (such as legionella, leptospirosis; tetanus); and viruses (for example from contact with body fluids);
  • The role of exposure limits (including for hazardous substances, and noise and vibration) and use of exposure monitoring to inform health risk assessments; and
  • Importance of making health risk assessments task specific (including use of and limitations of pro-formas and proprietary software packages), and consideration of activities with potential for very high exposures (including maintenance and equipment failure).

C. Principles of control for health risks

  • Specific legal duties relating to prevention of exposure, or where not reasonably practicable, to adequately control exposure;
  • Hierarchy of control – prevention, substitution, engineering/technical and procedural controls, before reliance on personal protective equipment (PPE);
  • Selection of suitable personal protective equipment, including face fit testing of respiratory protective equipment (RPE);
  • Maintenance, examination and testing of control measures;
  • Information, instruction and training on health risks and use of controls; and
  • Role of HSE management standards approach and management competency framework in managing risks from work related stress.

D. Monitoring of worker health and adequacy of risk controls

  • Role and function of health surveillance, including specific role of biological monitoring, in managing specific health risks (for example lead, isocyanates, hand arm vibration, noise);
  • Fitness for work and role of pre-employment health screening;
  • Reporting cases of work related ill health, including legal requirements under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013;
  • Absence management and return to work, and use of ill health data  (including absence and health surveillance records) to identify and improve risk controls; and
  • Role of Human Resources and occupational health specialists, including, where relevant, medical staff, occupational hygienists and ergonomists, in working with line managers in ensuring proper management of health risks.