Latest Rail News

30.10.13

New RAIB recommendations after COSS death at Saxilby

Network Rail should consider reducing its dependence on agency staff in safety leadership roles, the RAIB has recommended after an investigation into a fatal accident at Saxilby last year.

On 4 December 2012, a train struck and fatally injured self-employed track worker Scott Dobson, who was acting as a Controller of Site Safety (COSS). The RAIB found that Dobson was probably distracted by the noise, cold conditions and work being undertaken on the line, and stepped backwards into the path of the train as it passed the work site.

Dobson, 26, from Doncaster, had not implemented a Safe System of Work (a formal requirement for work being undertaken on Network Rail infrastructure), and had never been subject to disciplinary proceedings or other action after two previous safety incidents in the two months before the incident.

The agency that hired him, SkyBlue, did not implement any effective formal review of his performance, and parent company Carillion did not identify that an effective performance review regime was absent.

The RAIB recommends that Network Rail should identify and apply suitable controls to manage risk arising from the use of agency staff in safety leadership roles, or reduce its dependency on such staff. It should also work with companies that hire or use agency staff for any role that involves working on the track. The RAIB also said that Carillion and SkyBlue should review the effectiveness of changes made to their safety management arrangements following the accident.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “The RAIB report into this appalling tragedy shines the spotlight on the dangers inherent in the current working environment of track workers on Britain's railways. Those ever-present dangers are compounded by the use of contractors and agencies and the growth of zero hours contacts and casualisation in this safety critical environment.”

Network Rail is in the process of radically changing its site safety procedures, as explained in the October/November 2013 edition of RTM. The following is from a Network Rail presentation outlining the proposed changes:

What’s the problem – how many of these do you recognise? (or at least acknowledge!)

  • We do not believe the current arrangements for controlling site safety in terms of rail risk and task risk are adequate
  • The roles and responsibilities of those involved in planning, delivering and checking work are unclear
  • The current ‘work packs’ do not provide site, task and time specific information to deliver safe work and tend to be generic
  • Some of the key safety roles we need are filled by workers who are not always effectively able to discharge the requirements of the role
  • It is not clear on site who is responsible for overall safety and work delivery
  • There is an informality about the way some works are planned and carried out – particularly tasks which are seen as routine and particularly those which change

Solving the problem

  • Working out exactly who should have responsibility for planning and delivery
  • Establishing whether we have too many safety critical roles out there – COSS, PICOP, ES, PC
  • Trialling, through the Control of Work group, a new Permit-to-Work system
  • Reviewing how many suppliers we have who provide safety critical resource
  • Examining the way in which we contract with our suppliers
  • Learning how other industries and companies do this successfully
  • Reviewing how we train and assure the ongoing competence of safety critical roles

Overarching principles

  • The line manager is ACCOUNTABLE for planning safe working practices and for appointing someone RESPONSIBLE for safe delivery of work
  • One person will be responsible for safe delivery of work
  • The safety management arrangements will be appropriate to the risk of the work being carried out, the hazards present at the location of the work, and the time the work is carried out
  • A Permit-to-Work system will be introduced and with it clear roles and responsibilities
  • Everyone will comply with the permit and the Lifesaving Rules

What does this mean for you?

  • Some safety critical roles, as we know them now, will change or disappear
  • Network Rail and principal contractors will take more ownership for safety critical roles
  • We expect that less suppliers will be able to meet our new requirements
  • The way we contract with suppliers will change. Safety, performance and productivity will be written into the       contracts; we will create a framework within which they will work regarding standards for their employees (including training and development); we will seek to move away from zero hour contracts where there is appropriate; we will include requirements on ethical and sustainable behaviours; higher standards and additional controls will be implemented for those in our supply chain who train and assess defined safety-critical roles

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com

(Image: RAIB)

Comments

Mark Reppion   29/01/2014 at 17:14

ONCE AGAIN THERE HAS BEEN A FATALITY ON THE RAIL AS RESULT OF THE POOR PERFOMANCE OF A UNDER TRAINED UNDER EXPERIANCED SAFETY CRITICAL OFFICER. But is trully to blame, firstly the operative killed as he failed in his duty to implement a safe system of work, the supervisor for allowing the work to go ahead. The members of the group for not challenging the failure to provide a Ssow. His company for allowing him to continue putting men in danger after two previous incidents. Or the industry for allowing thousands and thousands of men to be fast tracked throught the safety critical roles. The removele of the robust mentor and assessment regimes . That were stripped away after nwr took over from rail track. What is clear is there is less quality safety critical staff available. As a result of fast tracking safety critical staff. The idear that there will be a reduction in the manpower that there is currently now . Is laughable when agency staff have for years been kick off sites for applying there skills in the correct way. Marked as trouble makers for doing there jobs properly. And a industry that does not supprot them.then to say it will be the responsibility of th PC to supply safety critical staff. Who will be told by the bosses to get it done. Atleast as a agency safety critical officer you can stand your ground on safety issuse. The real issue is the same as it has been for years the industry want safety critical staff who will take responsibility . But will not support them if they cost a project money by stopping work going ahead on safety issuse. Fix the issue of men being removed from site for doing the job right. And you will arradicate the incidents as all coss' s will know if they do there job right they will be applauded not finished up on the way home from site.

Steve R   29/01/2014 at 19:52

The only industry I have worked in for the last twenty plus years has slowly but surely been changed by people who have no rail experience. People interpreting rule and amending them with no idea of there affects. We had PICOW who would be set a job and plan a safe system of work accordingly but would be responsible for completion of the tasks aswell. yes the change to COSS was warranted no longer responsible for the task just the safety ( good god a move in the right direction). Then Rimini came (which I was tasked to set up for the company I worked for at the time (first projects). Who thankfully allowed me to survey the sites before planning for the works) I feel took some of the ability away from the COSS Whom at least 25 percent would be lost if you gave them a sec app & haz dir and said that's you job plan it!. Now I have met SSOW Planners who have never worked on the railway the main culprit NWR!! I have seen admin planning SSOW. Let's put it in plain terms make the people changing rules go out and work on the infrastructure for a minimum of six months with the hard pressed maintenance or with agency staff on a P-way or Civils job and learn to appreciate what it entails. Anyone on the railway will know that the biggest killer on the railway is complacently. Rant over

Mark Reppion   30/01/2014 at 17:30

ONCE AGAIN THERE HAS BEEN A FATALITY ON THE RAIL AS RESULT OF THE POOR PERFOMANCE OF A UNDER TRAINED UNDER EXPERIANCED SAFETY CRITICAL OFFICER. But who is trully to blame, firstly the operative killed as he failed in his duty to implement a safe system of work, the supervisor for allowing the work to go ahead. The members of the group for not challenging the failure to provide a Ssow. His company for allowing him to continue putting men in danger after two previous incidents. Or the industry for allowing thousands and thousands of men to be fast tracked throught the safety critical roles. The removele of the robust mentor and assessment regimes . That were stripped away after nwr took over from rail track. What is clear is there is less quality safety critical staff available. As a result of fast tracking safety critical staff. The idear that there will be a reduction in the manpower that there is currently now . Is laughable when agency staff have for years been kick off sites for applying there skills in the correct way. Marked as trouble makers for doing there jobs properly. And a industry that does not supprot them.then to say it will be the responsibility of th PC to supply safety critical staff. Who will be told by the bosses to get it done. Atleast as a agency safety critical officer you can stand your ground on safety issuse. The real issue is the same as it has been for years the industry want safety critical staff who will take responsibility . But will not support them if they cost a project money by stopping work going ahead on safety issuse. Fix the issue of men being removed from site for doing the job right. And you will arradicate the incidents as all coss' s will know if they do there job right they will be applauded not finished up on the way home from site.

Ex Employee   12/02/2014 at 14:28

Couldn't agree more with previous posts,In my experience on railway was same as,nwr make up the rules to suit themselves just to get the job done,there bosses say nothing because jobs are getting done,agency coss comes in and stops job on safety grounds and gets labelled (trouble)for doin job properly=no more work for him=inexperienced coss next week allows same job to go ahead=accidents

Concerned Railwayman   08/05/2014 at 15:08

I really don't understand. If we look at the number of incidents/accidents in the past few years they have mainly been down to Network Rail's maintainer. Now, the staff there are not on zero contracts, there main occupation is Rail and they cover multiple roles i.e Team Leader, ES, Coss - does it work? No. What is really needed is for Network Rail to police heavily safety critical staff, weeding out those who have no idea what they are doing bringing the elite staff to the top. If we want a safer railway then we need an independant policing (not necessarily the ORR) by someone who will fail people if they do not come up to scratch - we should be choosing agency staff not based on commercial pricing but on incident free days. We should be categorising our Coss and ES staff - not all are fit for purpose in all aspects of the role. COSS NTS course? This didn't prove a thing. If you want the principle contractors to take ownership then let them vet the agency staff and put them through their paces both indoors and out on site.

Jamie   27/06/2014 at 16:06

As an agency ES, COSS, MC/CC myself I am genuinely scared for my livelihood when these changes are implemented. Will there be re-training? Will I be allowed to become a 'safe work supervisor' ? Also the safety aspect would seem to be compromised instead of improved. I am not sure if I am taking it in properly but with this new system there won't be a coss(or whatever name they give it) with every group? I understand the principle of having 1 guy to answer for safety but see it whole unworkable and see a lot of people being done out of work because of it, sad times ahead.

SJ   02/10/2014 at 13:22

having seen the proposals - they do not change anything. This is not an improvement in safety, with a safety specific post, it is purely a 're-badging' exercise to satisfy the authorities. the Safe Work Leader 1,2 +3 will only in reality replace COSS and ES. The involvement of SWL's with the planning process is not achievable due to shift working, staff shortages etc. The only way safety will improve is if NR bite the bullet and introduce an actual Safety Leader on each site of work who has no other responsibility but to manage Safety!!!

Disgruntled   14/10/2014 at 21:36

this has happend yes tes2000 are training cosses with less than a year on track. why is this allowed.

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