How the rail industry takes safe decisions

Source: Rail Technology Magazine Aug/Sept 2014

Marcus Dacre, safety risk assessment manager at RSSB, discusses how the rail industry takes safe decisions.

In the GB rail industry, almost every policy, investment or operational decision has an impact on safety. Every organisation needs to understand and manage its risks, both on an ongoing basis and when it changes something.

In 2008, RSSB published ‘Taking Safe Decisions’, which has supported many safety-related decisions in the rail industry and beyond.

The legislative environment has now changed; in particular, railway-specific regulations defining Common Safety Methods (CSM) have come fully into force.

Any company looking to introduce new technology onto the railway should be aware of these overarching legal requirements, as they have implications for how the safety of such technology needs to be analysed and demonstrated to the railway companies that would eventually use it on the operational railway.

Guidance from RSSB

RSSB has now launched a new version of Taking Safe Decisions.

Taking Safe Decisions sets out the consensus view of how the GB rail industry understands, monitors and manages risk in this new environment. It describes railway companies’ safety-related responsibilities and explains how these help to ensure the safety of the railway system as a whole.

The guidance is structured around three related activities that ask questions about safety-related change:

Monitoring: Is my operation safe or might I need to make a change?

Analysing and selecting options: What should I change and can it be done safely?

Making a change: How do I make sure the change is safe?

Taking Safe Decisions describes a good practice approach to safety management that is proactive, commercially sound and meets all relevant legal requirements. It will help companies to:

• Manage safety effectively on an ongoing basis;

• Deliver a change safely and demonstrate this to others; and

• Take bold decisions, such as the removal of obsolete safety measures, with confidence.

Although Taking Safe Decisions has been written primarily for decision takers working for transport operators and their suppliers, the requirements around which the framework is built relate to technical, operational and organisational matters and are therefore of relevance across a railway company’s business.

An accompanying set of worked examples demonstrates the practical application of the framework.

New guidance on the use of cost-benefit analysis when determining whether a measure is necessary to ensure safety so far as is reasonably practicable (SFAIRP) has also been published to support the document.

This guidance complements the six Rail Industry Guidance Notes on the application of the CSM on Risk Evaluation and Assessment, which were published on RGS online in June 2014.

They are:

• GE/GN8640 Guidance on Planning an Application of the Common Safety Method on Risk Evaluation and Assessment – Issue 1

• GE/GN8641 Guidance on System Definition - Issue 1

• GE/GN8642 Guidance on Hazard Identification and Classification - Issue 2

• GE/GN8643 Guidance on Risk Evaluation and Risk Acceptance – Issue 2

• GE/GN8644 Guidance on Safety Requirements and Hazard Management – Issue 1

• GE/GN8645 Guidance on Independent Assessment – Issue 1

The CSM RA sets out a risk management process that must be applied when any significant change, of a technical, operational or organisational nature, is made to the railway system.

The risk management process set out in the regulation can be applied to any change to the railway system, whether or not it formally meets the test of ‘significance’. Applying the process more generally will avoid the need for duplicate processes.

It is the responsibility of the proposer of a change to identify the hazards associated with the proposed change and to determine what safety measures are needed to control the risks to an acceptable level. RSSB will deliver further worked examples and supporting material over time. 

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