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Safety and the pace of change

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Since Mark Carne took over as Network Rail chief executive in early 2014, safety has been at the core of every speech he has given and every press statement issued. Safety going hand in hand with performance is the mantra he’s sought to instil.

Carne is attending the Rail Safety Summit for the first time to deliver the keynote address. Speaking at last month’s Rail Exec Club event, Mark said he felt he had made it clear from the start of his tenure that safety was what he stands for.

He said, ‘I deeply believe that it is our obligation as leaders to create a culture which enables people to feel that they are obliged to work safely and feel they can work safely, that they’re not under pressure to do things in an unsafe way that puts them or passengers’ safety at risk in any way.’

This year’s Rail Safety Summit will begin by looking at the pace of change within the industry around safety, exploring Network Rail’s reforms around safe work planning and the way in which projects like HS2 are having to consider safety at the design stage.

Additionally, the conference will look at the importance of leadership and how things like technology and the law are affecting safe working practices.

Prior to joining Network Rail, Mark was executive vice president for Royal Dutch Shell plc in the Middle East and North Africa. Compared to rail, oil and gas has an enviable safety performance record.

‘It’s not altruistic entirely it’s not just about because I don’t want people to hurt themselves, it’s because I want to run a great company and I know that this is one of the key tools we can use to run a great company,’ said Mark.

‘You go into a great factory and do you find bits and pieces of scrap left all over the floor? No, of course you don’t. They’re spotlessly clean and they’re organised and they’re planned like military operations and that’s the mindset we need to have in the railway.

‘You keep your place clean and tidy we organise our work properly, we plan it properly, we execute it brilliantly and that will drive efficiency and improvements in the way we work.’

In the past couple of years, there have been a number of train accidents around the world which have had a devastating impact on human life. Europe, Spain, France and Switzerland have all experienced fatal crashes which have claimed the lives of both passengers and railway staff. It is now eight years since the last passenger or workforce fatality in the UK which was caused by a train accident. It’s one area in which the industry in this country takes some sense of pride.

Besides the traditional areas of concern such as level crossings and suicides, there are now new focusses – occupational health is one. Another area of concern is road casualties as highlighted by the RSSB’s 2014 safety performance figures.

Publishing the figures, George Bearfield, director of system safety at RSSB, said, ‘Road transport plays a crucial role in keeping the railway running, by enabling round-the-clock maintenance and development. However, this brings with it a risk to rail staff and others, highlighted by the loss of life to an infrastructure worker who was moving materials from one railway worksite to another.

‘A cross-industry project is underway to highlight the wider risks associated with driving for work and improve overall understanding and management.

‘Whilst there can never be zero risk, there is no room for complacency and active prevention, monitoring, and learning all play a role.’


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