Useful safety points in ORR business plan

03 May 2012

ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan has welcomed some ‘very encouraging remarks about health and safety’ in the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) business plan for 2012/13.

‘While much of the report is about the economic efficiency of the rail industry, it is heartening to see clear expressions of concern over rail safety,’ says Mick.

The ORR has a dual (and some say compromised) nature in that it combines being ‘the independent economic and safety regulator for Britain’s railways’. This is reflected in the three priorities it has set out for the coming year, namely

· reducing costs

· introducing sharper focus on customers and

· insisting on excellence in safety culture and management.

‘The statement of principle on safety is excellent, even if there is little detail on how this ‘excellence’ might be achieved,’ Mick say. ‘But there is enough in the business plan to warrant ASLEF reps and members taking a careful look. We will use the principles expressed in the ORR plan as we raise health and safety issues in the workplace, and will ensure the regulator involves ASLEF reps in implementing changes, as indeed they are required to do by law.’

ASLEF’s health and safety reps will examine the ‘safety culture’ section carefully to highlight areas where reps might expect ORR activity. The annual plan includes

· reducing passenger and worker accidents by 5%

· cutting level crossing incidents by 7% and

· taking action on fatigue.

The ORR has also announced a review of some key railway safety regulations.

‘While much of this sounds progressive and useful, it always rings alarm bells when ‘safety’ and ‘reducing costs’ appear in the same breath. In our experience, lower costs mean lower standards.

‘We are all facing central government attacks on regulation and part of our programme this year must be a readiness to defend existing legal legal standards.’

The text of the ORR business plan can be downloaded here

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