In the highly regulated rail industry, stringent health and safety measures are crucial – mobile apps can make these processes more efficient, improve communication, and reduce risk in your workforce.
The rail industry is manual in nature, which in turn presents a number of associated high-level risks. Accidents, injury and even fatalities are all too possible if the proper safety measures aren’t upheld.
There are many factors that play a part in risk to health and safety in rail, including the specialist equipment used, exposure to external dangers such as oncoming trains, and the flow of communication between team members throughout a disparate workforce.
In the 2018/19 period, there were 205,000 close calls reported by Network Rail – over 50,000 more than had been forecast. Further to this, there was an incident at Margam station in which two track workers were fatally struck by a train, due to a breakdown in communication. In an ever-changing environment, real-time communication is key to avoiding dangers.
In addition to the obvious physical dangers, fatigue is a widespread issue, which can affect the quality and safety of work being carried out. If not managed effectively, fatigue can lead to burnout and subsequent loss of workers.
It’s because of all these potential dangers that stringent health and safety measures must be clearly communicated and implemented to keep workers and employers alike protected.
Why are health and safety briefings so important in rail?
Health and safety briefings are vital as they offer critical information on the risks and how to avoid them, giving everyone involved the knowledge they need to safely get the job done. It cannot be stressed enough how important this is within a high-risk rail setting; these briefings can quite literally make the difference between life and death.
Additionally, the repercussions of unsatisfactory health and safety measures span much further than danger to workers; the risks to business stability are considerable. If a worker was to be injured and subsequently require time off work, for example, the business would lose a significant number of man hours and productivity, which has a detrimental impact on the profitability of the company.
There’s also the issues faced from a legal standpoint. By failing to implement and maintain the proper health and safety measures, a rail business is at risk of breaking the law and facing fines from the ORR. More severe cases can also result in the company being banned from operating, as well as being sued by employees who have been affected by the lack of health and safety measures.
With so many risks associated with a lax health and safety policy, both from a human and business standpoint, it pays dividends to implement the proper protocol in the rail industry.
How can I find rail health and safety information?
The RSSB has published health and safety standards, which can be found on their site. They must be read, followed and briefed to the rest of the team before carrying out any rail works. Health and safety information also comes from a detailed analysis of any dangers present on that specific work site and regular risk assessments, carried out by assigned inspectors.
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Who does the health and safety information need to be communicated to?
The information needs to be communicated throughout the entire rail workforce to ensure everyone is aware of all the associated risks and how to avoid them. Typically the safety information will be communicated from the RSSB to the Person in Charge or PIC, who will then draw up the safe systems of work documentation. These then must be relayed to the COSS, and then the workers on site must be fully briefed before work can go ahead.
The most important member of the team to be informed on health and safety protocol is the PIC, who supervises the works. Rail sites need to be closely monitored to ensure everyone is working in a safe manner.
The inspectors involved must also have the adequate safety information to hand in order to carry out the checks to a high standard.
What’s wrong with my paper-based health and safety processes?
Paper-based health and safety processes are problematic particularly within the rail industry. From an administrative point of view, the volume of inspections and information to be recorded creates a mountain of paperwork to fill out and then communicate. This is made even more difficult due to the disparate nature of the rail industry; relaying updates is an arduous task when distributing across miles of track.
More importantly, from a safety perspective, the time it takes for safety-critical information to reach the relevant worker creates a communication lag, meaning workers are left in the dark to potential risks. With safety, time is of the essence – a few minutes can make the difference between life or death. For example, a line block could have been improperly implemented and so there is danger of an oncoming train hitting a worker. This is why it’s so important to have real-time communication flowing between workers on site and in the back office.
There is also the issue of passing physical forms in itself. In a time of a global pandemic, human interactions are being seriously restricted to reduce the transmission of infection. Workers within the manual rail sector need to be particularly aware of working in a Covid-compliant manner — the paper-and-pen approach makes this difficult.
Human error and lost forms are a common occurrence when using a paper-based approach, which jeopardises health and safety auditing. If a crucial piece of information is lost, it can’t be communicated and an accident could occur. This is in addition to the fines a business could incur if they are found to be lacking on safety-critical information.
Why should my rail business implement a health and safety app?
A digital app solution makes it possible to brief all staff in relevant health and safety procedures when they’re on the go. They can access this vital information instantaneously from their personal device, wherever and whenever, which leads to safer working behaviours. A traditional health and safety briefing at work would be in person, delivered once to a group who could potentially be distracted, mishear, or forget certain protocol. By having all the details on their person at all times, they are empowered to protect themselves and have no excuse for not following guidance.
The obvious factor of paper costs needs to be taken into consideration here; as there are so many health and safety measures to enforce in rail, there is subsequently a huge stack of paperwork associated with them. An app instantly eliminates this cost and administrative nightmare, which also frees up your staff to concentrate on the work at hand, boosting productivity.
Saving information in the cloud is a much more robust method than filling out then filing paper forms. An app solution keeps all information stored safely in one digital space, making lost forms a thing of the past. This safeguards the business against penalties while ensuring your staff are fully informed on health and safety procedures.
Which health and safety app is best for my rail business?
It can be tricky to find the best health and safety app for rail, due to the variety of industry-specific documentation. To help you out with your search, we’ve put together a few of the best options:
OnTrac creates apps and software specifically for rail, and knows the industry inside out. This makes OnTrac the best option for catering to the health and safety app needs of the sector. There are both off-the-shelf and bespoke options to choose from, enabling your exact requirements to be met.
Nutshell can create bespoke, company-branded apps that mimic your specific health and safety procedures. Nutshell realises that businesses within rail all have slightly different forms and processes, so a one-size-fits-all approach wouldn’t work. Nutshell also boasts an offline mode, which is a crucial feature for the rail industry; many areas of the worksite will have little to no internet availability. This feature eliminates the dreaded issue of lost information and maintains a clear audit trail. Additionally, you can save your health and safety briefing template so you don’t have to continuously create forms from scratch.
Safesite offers many health and safety templates in their app library, including safety inspections, audits and checklists, and incident reports. They are all available across iOS and Android. These forms are set up in a standardised way, so may not include all the specifics a rail business may need, but is an easy option for those businesses looking for something quick and simple.
It is essential to monitor and maintain stringent health and safety in the high-risk rail sector. However, you can make the task simpler and more effective by implementing an app-based approach. Apps enable clear, up-to-date communication that is crucial to rail worker safety. By having all the information at their fingertips, wherever and whenever they need it, rail workers are empowered to protect themselves and work in as safe a manner as possible.