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In case you missed it – Joining the debate

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You can’t effect change if you’re not part of the discussion. That is the belief of one of the country’s leading civil engineering and construction groups as it looks to forge new links with its industry partners.

Costain is now formally a member of RSSB. As such, the company will be assigned a seat on various committees and policy groups; it will also gain access
to RSSB’s rich bank of resources, including information on standards, risk modelling tools and updates on new safety innovation.

There are other benefits too. Members have access to data from the Railway Documentation & Drawing Services (RDDS) – a subsidiary of RSSB that houses the former British Railway Board’s library of traction and rolling stock drawings and documents from before privatisation.

‘For us it means we get to be committed to the ongoing improvement we want to see in the industry,’ said Nicola Uijen, rail safety, health and environment (SHE) director at Costain.


Of course, Costain has been working with RSSB for many years, particularly in areas like occupational health, hand arm vibration and mental health.

Costain contributed to the RSSB’s ‘Railway Health and Wellbeing Roadmap’ and was one of several organisations to endorse the RSSB’s ‘Leading Health and Safety on Britain’s railway’ industry strategy.

At the launch of the strategy, Costain’s director of rail, Gren Edwards, said, ‘Leading Health and Safety in Britain’s Railways is a positive step to identifying significant common industry risk and providing a co-ordinated approach to its prevention, reduction and mitigation. Costain see real benefits in aligning our strategy with this approach to support improvements to protecting passengers and worker safety and health throughout the UK rail networks.’

Companies have a legal obligation to collaborate under the Railways and Other Guided Transport Systems (Safety) Regulations 2006 (ROGS). Formal membership within the RSSB, however, gives companies like Costain a louder voice on the issues that affect their workforce.

‘We span the whole system,’ says RSSB in its membership guide. That said, Costain is one of only a handful of companies directly involved in the delivery of complex rail infrastructure programmes to gain RSSB membership. The company will be able to lead the debate and highlight construction safety issues within an organisation that tends to focus on operational safety.

‘The industry is bigger than just that,’ said Nicola, reflecting on her desire to bring more attention to construction safety issues in the industry. She went on, ‘It absolutely gives us that key influence… We’re now in a position where we can influence more and be part of the decision making and the toolkits they put together.’

Sustainability and innovation

The connection with RSSB will go beyond the health and safety department. Most parts of the business will cultivate new RSSB contacts, including areas like technological innovation and sustainability.

There are clear bene ts for companies from membership, but there are ideas and approaches being pioneered by Costain that will gain a bigger platform. Earlier this year, Costain launched a new carbon counting tool that can identify potential emission hotspots on project sites and help project managers reduce their carbon footprint. The tool has already been used by Costain Tideway East project.

Costain’s R&D should benefit from membership. RSSB can obtain government funding for research programmes, as well as offering grants or match funding for beneficial schemes. Costain is working with 13 strategic partners to further research projects with SMEs. The company hopes to advance its knowledge of intelligent infrastructure business innovations.

Representing the con-tracting community

Nicola, who has worked in construction and rail-related health and safety roles for the past 24 years, believes it’s important that more contracting companies seek membership too. ‘The RSSB is set up to help the industry deliver improvements to the railway industry. Currently the membership is skewed particularly in the direction of operating companies and infrastructure owners.

‘This is a great time to be involved and influence from the infrastructure contractor’s perspective. The more contractors that join, the better. We can really get the RSSB working for the contracting community that support the industry. This will assist in sharing of data and best practise leading to greater improvements to safety, health and wellbeing of the railway family.’

First published in RailStaff April 2017