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Improving safety and standards

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The Rail Safety Seat belts and Standards Board (RSSB) was established in April 2003 in the aftermath of the Ladbroke Grove railway crash. Hundreds were injured and 31 people killed when two trains collided at a combined speed of around 130mph.

Previously Railtrack – and before that British Rail – adopted Safety and Standards Directorates that dealt with industry-wide safety issues, but in the wake of Ladbroke Grove, judge Lord Cullen recommended the formation of RSSB.

The not-for-profit organisation is owned by major industry stakeholders – including train operators, Network Rail, rolling stock companies and major infrastructure contractors – and is governed by its members and a board.

It provides support and facilitates a wide range of activities usually achieved through cross-industry working groups and committees, to drive out unnecessary cost, improve business and safety performance and develop long-term strategy.

It does this by providing knowledge and better understanding from which industry decisions are taken by recognised bodies such as standards committees.

Seat belts

For example, action taken by the Noise Abatement Society to control the sound of train horns causing disturbance to residents had the potential to cost the industry £20 million, but research and analysis carried out by RSSB showed that alternative action could be taken without the need to spend such sums.

There was also a campaign to force operators to fit trains with seat belts. RSSB proved that trains were actually safer without them, provided that carriages were fitted with laminated glass rather than toughened to contain passengers within the train in the event of an accident. All new trains now have laminated glass.

Safest railway in Europe

RSSB and its divisions CIRAS, a confidential reporting system for the industry, and RISQS, the industry supplier qualification scheme, are the sponsors of this year’s Rail Safety Person or Team of the Year award.

The UK has the safest railways in Europe, with fewer workforce and passenger fatalities despite record numbers of journeys. This is in no small part due to the efforts of professional rail staff across the network, as well as the industry’s leaders and experts on health and safety, such as last year’s winners: RSSB’s John Abbott and Network Rail’s Roan Wilmore, to improve and set increasingly higher standards.

The pair worked together to write Leading Health and Safety on Britain’s Railways: A strategy for working together, a publication that introduced new ideas for rail safety management.

Paul O’Connor, of event organisers Rail Media, said, ‘Safety is paramount on the railway and thanks to the tireless efforts of health and safety workers the UK boasts some of the highest standards in the world.

‘These standards are ever improving and it is great to recognise the efforts of many hard-working safety staff at the Ricoh Arena next month.’