Apr 2006 - Safety must go to the top

01 June 2013

I make no apologies for making safety the major theme of this edition of the Journal. The slogan we used on Rail Safety Day – ‘Safety Must Go To The Top’ – is an expression of two things: that safety must be top of every working person’s agenda; and that it must be as important a consideration in the boardroom as on the footplate.

Our safety reps sum up everything that trade unions represent. They give their time freely. They wade through legislation and regulations that make the rest of us head for the hills. They are seldom praised or even thanked. They carry out their duties not from a desire for recognition, but from a sense of personal decency and collective concern.

I spoke to a few of them at Arkwright Road last month before opening a training session on fatigue. Two pressing issues they identified were hazards at level crossings and the issue of 'specially monitored drivers'.

The crossings issue is quite astonishing. People die on them on a regular basis, but because they are 'isolated incidents', no one seems to recognise the scale of the problem nationally. We have proposed our own solution - a video link from track to cab so a driver can see the track in plenty of time to stop if there is an obstruction. This would not eliminate all these incidents, but it would reduce them dramatically. A trial is currently taking place in Wales - but I'm at a loss to know what exactly is being trialled. The system has been working successfully in Hong Kong

for eight years!

It is an issue we will continue to monitor and argue for whenever we have the opportunity.

The Specially Monitored Drivers (SMD) points system is almost entirely discredited. Safety reps have told us that it is being used by managers to retain drivers - because it is less likely that they will be able to move to another company if they have points on their record. They also say it is also being used for issues not linked to driving - like uniforms and appearance. It seems that what began life as a safety mechanism is, in some cases, being transformed into a discipline tool.

These are only two of the safety issues that are central to the well-being of our members. For all our sakes-safety must go to the top.

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