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August 10, 2010

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RSSB challenged to help rail industry achieve safety excellence

The role of the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) needs to change so it can help the industry achieve excellence in health and safety management, a report by the sector’s watchdog the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) has concluded.

The report acknowledges the good work the RSSB has carried out to help improve the industry’s management of health and safety risk, since its inception in 2003 after the inquiry into the Ladbroke Grove accident.

However, given the challenge of efficiency-drives facing the industry, the report has made a series of recommendations to help the Board become more efficient, including: reviewing the structure of RSSB’s board; changing the way that research is commissioned and used by duty-holders; and reducing delays and unnecessary compromise in the management of railway group standards.

The Board asked the ORR to undertake the review because it had not been possible to secure a unanimously agreed budget for 2010/11.

Commenting on the review, the ORR’s director of railway safety, Ian Prosser, said: “We believe the changes suggested will offer improved value for money for funders and taxpayers, as well as improving RSSB’s own focus, efficiency and effectiveness. RSSB’s key role should be to help the whole rail sector achieve excellence in health and safety management, while driving out unnecessary costs and improving business performance.”

Responding to the recommendations, Paul Thomas, chair of the RSSB, said:
“The rail industry faces significant challenges in reducing long-term costs and maintaining and improving the business and safety performance of the industry is critical to the British economy and its recovery.

“RSSB can see it has a role supporting the industry to tackle these challenges, and we asked the ORR to help ensure that we are in the best possible position to help the industry deliver this, through confirming our role and establishing a medium-term funding arrangement.”

A spokesperson for the IOSH Rail Group said it hoped the RSSB would accept the challenge to become more integral to the management of safety on the railways, adding: “We also agree that RSSB needs to better represent the industry at a European level, and begin the task of integrating time-honoured GB rail standards in line with the European norms, many of which herald a possible second ‘golden age’ for rail travel. €ᄄ€ᄄ“IOSH RG also hopes it can become more visible within RSSB’s work to improve safety management, in particular by helping to frame apprentice-scheme safety modules, thus ensuring that strategic and tactical implications are appreciated by staff from an early stage in their career development.”

The ORR has asked the RSSB’s board to consider the recommendations and respond by mid-October.

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