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Think Safety, Act Safely – The story behind Stobart Rail’s new safety vision

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Is there a secret to creating an effective, impactful health and safety campaign? More often than not, such posters and videos use shock tactics to make their point, but a new campaign by Stobart Rail is using a softer approach to spread the company’s safety message: Think Safety, Act Safely.

‘That was the biggest challenge in designing the posters because it’s a serious subject and doesn’t want to be taken lightly,’ said Steve Ferrington, safety and compliance manager at Stobart Rail.

The campaign, which has been in development for the last two years, is centred around three animated characters. A series of posters show Billy, Gus and Jim, who were designed by Carlisle-based Cloudscape Studios, demonstrating a host of typical health and safety hazards encountered by Stobart Rail workers (images below show the development of the animation for one of the campaign posters). These include working at height, using mobile phones whilst driving, recognising exclusion zones around heavy plant and wearing the correct safety equipment.

What began life as a small-scale poster campaign quickly snowballed as the team identified more and more topics to cover. ‘ 10 became 20, that became 30,’ said Steve.


The initiative has been shaped by Network Rail’s Lifesaving Rules. Stobart also identified common risks by analysing incident statistics from the past five years.

‘People are usually aware of the outcome when things go wrong,’ said Steve, who thinks the comedic tone of the posters will relate to staff in a way that other campaigns have not. ‘The posters portray a serious message in a comically visual way.’

Steve and the rest of Stobart Rail’s SHE team are now carrying out site visits to implement the campaign throughout the business. The initial feedback has been encouraging.

‘Nothing but positive comments about how they look, how professionally they’ve been designed and it’s a great idea,’ said Steve. ‘And people keep coming to me saying ‘what about doing one for this, doing one for that.’


But the posters are just the start. ‘I don’t believe that we could actually measure improvement by just the posters alone. It’s all part of the bigger picture. These posters are just a reminder of what we’re trying to achieve.’

Stobart Rail launched the campaign during a visit to Lochardil Primary School in Inverness. The contractor is currently working with Network Rail Scotland to deliver the Far North CP5 Plain Line Workbank contract. The visit was an opportunity to talk to the children about how dangerous the railway can be when safety rules aren’t followed.

Says Steve, ‘We want to ensure that they know why we’re there… We wanted to give them an understanding of what we’re doing and the dangers that are out there. It’s not a playground.’cloudscape_stobart_pic_v1


Network Rail project manager Douglas Craig was pleased Stobart had chosen his project to launch its new safety vision. ‘I have been encouraged by Stobart Rail’s attitude to health and safety since tendering for the far north plain line track refurbishment contract.

‘Stobart Rail and Network Rail presented to over 400 pupils about the importance of PPE and safety and the children got the chance to meet the Stobart Rail safety characters called Billy, Gus and Jim.

‘Upon contract award, Stobart Rail introduced their new health and safety campaign and explained they would like to launch it on our project. I was keen to help and assisted at Lochardil primary school, where we encouraged the local school children to name the characters and discuss railway safety matters. The day was truly engaging and a great success.

‘This demonstrates Stobart Rail’s commitment to local communities and a desire to raise awareness and improve safety.’


Stobart Rail managing director Kirk Taylor said, ‘The campaign has been introduced because we didn’t want to get complacent even though we have had a great safety record over the last few years.

‘We needed something visually eye-catching, powerful with a real message that the audience would relate to, take on board and react to unconsciously and automatically without being forced and instructed to do so.

‘The idea of taking it into schools, especially targeting primary ages, was to reach young children, introduce them to the rail industry, educate them on the importance of safety, not just for themselves but everyone around them that they can make an impact on, and hopefully sell it in such a way we perhaps help create an enthusiasm in them to become the next generation of railway staff.

Arco kindly donated high visibility vests to give to the students at Lochardil primary school.
Arco kindly donated high visibility vests to give to the students at Lochardil primary school.

‘The characters were named by the children from Lochardil School. Although currently three characters, we have more on the way. The characters were designed in such a way that we hope the staff relate to or personally identify with. It could be you or one of your work mates.

‘The campaign also covers staff welfare. ‘Free Fruity Friday’. With the idea being we provide fruit free on site and in the offices to encourage healthy eating. ‘A problem shared is a problem halved’, where we encourage the staff to speak with line management or HR if they have any work or home-related issues, so we can help directly, or, if they wish, we can put them in touch with professional bodies that will provide assistance and advice.

‘We also wanted to get across the importance of being responsible drivers, as we are a business with national coverage, with lots of vans, cars and lorries tramping all over the country. Poor and aggressive driving is liable to affect and upset other road users and will also give the company a bad name. Good community relations is always a key to successful contract delivery. We endeavour always to be a good neighbour and a considerate contractor.’

The campaign is now being extended to other Stobart Rail schemes, including the Gospel Oak to Barking line electrification and the Highland Enhancement Programme (HEP). Stobart is also looking at rolling Billy, Gus and Jim out across its other divisions.

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