Gareth Llewellyn, Director of Safety and Sustainable Development for Network Rail, talks us through the journey from safety targets to a safety culture.
Two years ago, Network Rail was running the very successful Safety 365 campaign, a hard- hitting look at safety aimed specifically at our frontline employees. It had been in place for almost five years and led to the development of numerous videos, materials and awareness campaigns.
Safety 365 had worked well, encouraging our people to work towards year-long periods without any safety incidents, accidents or injuries. But we were conscious that, by focusing on reducing the number of incidents, we might drive under-reporting and so a different approach was important if we were to make a step change in our performance.
Network Rail’s approach to safety had to change, and its safety communications had to follow suit. Research, benchmarking and expert guidance from across the industry called for a more mature approach to safety, and specifically a focus on creating the type of culture in which safe behaviours can thrive. For me, this meant changing the way we think – moving away from the idea that safety is somehow mandated through a plethora of standards and towards a culture in which everyone is included, feels able to identify safer ways of working and where the safety critical expectations are clear to all.
A new vision for safety
- Safety & Sustainable Development (S&SD) began supporting this shift by defining exactly what the company wanted to be in relation to safety. What did we want to achieve and what were we all working towards? This was an important step in setting our course for the future, and led to the development of our safety vision, everyone home safe every day. This vision highlighted three key points:
- We want everyone to get home safely every day: passengers, public, employees, and any- one who comes into contact with the railway. Safety is about everyone, whether they work in an office, in a signal box or on the front line. Everyone has a role to play and everyone’s decisions should have safety at their heart.
- This is a constant part of what we do, it’s every single day, well beyond the next 365. Each day is just as important as the last.
For these reasons, ‘everyone home safe, every day’ replaced Safety 365 as our safety brand. It maintains all the elements that made Safety 365 so effective, the thought-provoking campaigns and targeted, emotive content that gets us all thinking about the consequences of compromising on safety. But it also reflects the way we’re thinking about safety now. Importantly, it sums up the reality of safe working: it’s about making sure we can all get to our homes each night, unharmed.
Putting in place a new vision and brand was just the starting point. It’s essential we all know where we’re headed, but we also need to make significant practical changes and improvements. These improvements began with the development and widespread adoption of our Lifesaving Rules.’
Lifesaving Rules and a fair culture
Iain Boardman, head of S&SD engagement, and one of our Rail Safety Summit speakers, was responsible for consulting with the trades unions on the Rules themselves, as well as the fair process for applying them across Network Rail.
‘The Lifesaving Rules are a first step in simplifying our standards and safety rules. Gareth was clear that we needed to address the company’s biggest safety risks as soon as possible, and the Rules are designed to do exactly that. They all relate directly to the biggest threats to life in our industry, and are based on over 12 years’ worth of data from our safety management information system (SMIS). We wanted everyone to own the Rules and understand their importance, which is why we consulted with over 1,300 of our own people, as well as our contractors and the unions, to make sure they felt like everyone’s Rules.
‘Now that the Rules are well-known throughout Network Rail, we’re introducing the consequences guide that accompanies them. This next step is arguably more important because it’s the part that will help the company demonstrate a fair framework for dealing with rule breaking, a framework that allows us to understand why a Rule gets broken. If we know why Rules are being broken, whether it’s human error or systemic failure, we can learn from what’s happened and take steps to stop it happening again.
‘If we can show that we will always do this fairly and sensibly, we can encourage people to feel more comfortable opening up about their mistakes, which will give us a better understanding of what goes wrong and why. The consequences guide also encourages us to recognise and build-on the successes of those who are getting it right, so we don’t miss out on that learning.’
10 point workforce safety plan
Emma Head, head of workforce safety and a fellow speaker at the summit, works alongside Iain in S&SD.
’We established a vision, the Lifesaving Rules, and have now put in place a full strategy for safety and wellbeing focused on the elimination of fatalities and injuries. Now that the Rules and their fair consequences are being embedded, we are sharing the practical delivery of the strategy with our people through a 10- point workforce safety plan.
‘The plan focuses on key safety improvements such as technology interventions, defining roles and responsibilities and encouraging effective safety conversations. A good way to describe it would be as the roadmap to achieving everyone home safe every day. It’s a tangible way of looking at our safety culture and practices and demonstrating how we’ll change them for the better.’
Everyone, every day
The work my colleagues are sharing at the Rail Safety Summit is a series of practical and cultural solutions that will allow Network Rail to achieve its safety goals. A real ‘safety culture’ means continually facilitating innovation, learning, fairness, openness, risk awareness and inclusiveness. All of the activities we’re undertaking now and in the future are designed to address all of the different elements that make-up our safety performance, and equip everyone in Network Rail to handle them in an exemplary fashion. There is no one solution and no one group of individuals who will make these positive, sustainable changes.
We truly have to reach everyone, every single day, from the visible brand of everyone home safe every day, through to the obvious changes to our safety practices and approaches.