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IOSH highlights cost savings for rail

Improved health and safety could provide cost savings for the rail industry, delegates at the IOSH Rail Industry Conference 2012 heard yesterday.

Concerns were highlighted over the risk of cost cutting and the effects a negative perception of health and safety could have on worker protection.

But health and safety can provide savings through reduced lost time due to injuries or ill-health and improve efficiency. The need for right, competent advice from professionals was also highlighted as particularly important.

The overall level of harm on the railways has been reduced by 12%, but accidents still happen, the ORR stated. Priorities for regulation include level crossings, workforce safety, occupational health and rolling stock.

Chair of the Commons Select Committee on Transport, Louise Ellman MP, said: “The search for savings and the ongoing background of austerity produce a potent combination of factors sufficient to warrant concerns of the health and safety of our railways.

“If we are in a situation where there is pressure to cut costs and there’s a perception that good health and safety is achieved in an expensive manner, I think that alarm bells should ring – is something going to go and will there be complacency?”

Martin Leeks, IOSH Railway Group chair, said: “People perceive health and safety as a cost, rather than a route to better business. In fact, this couldn’t be further from the truth – health and safety is one of the cornerstones of a thriving economy and we believe we can find many of those cost improvements through it.

“Over the last few years, we’ve been placing more of an emphasis on the health of workers on our railways. Each year there are a huge number of fatalities from work-related diseases and new cases of long-term illnesses – they are our slow accidents. But together with those organisations which are recognising the importance of this issue, we want to encourage better health in our rail sector.”

Richard Price, Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) chief executive said: “Health and safety needs to remain at the forefront of everyone’s minds – an unsafe industry can’t be an efficient industry. Safety and occupational health management has a crucial role to play in improving value for money.”

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