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June 1, 2022

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The importance of health and safety training in the rail sector

From slips, trips and falls to electrical hazards, every workplace comes with its unique set of risks, and the rail sector is certainly no exception to this rule. Health and safety training is a legal requirement that ensures the general wellbeing of a workforce and reduces the risk of an accident within the workplace. However, it is often overlooked by employers, or is not as regularly monitored or maintained as it should be, according to SOCOTEC.

What is health and safety training?

The importance of health and safety training in the rail sectorHealth and safety training helps individuals to learn how to do something, guiding and informing employees to what they should or should not do in a given situation within the workplace. It supports employers and employees in:

  • Planning their work
  • Organising and adequately supervising staff
  • Communicate the work method effectively
  • Monitor the workplace and routinely talk to staff
  • Review the processes and procedures.

Who requires health and safety training within the rail sector?

All employees within the rail sector will require health and safety training within an organisation, regardless of their level of responsibility. This also includes but is not limited to, managers, supervisors, contractors and self-employed individuals working on the employer’s behalf.

Is health and safety training a legal requirement?

Health and safety training is not optional, as it ensures that employees are well informed and are receiving proper instructions, training and supervision. Accordingly, employers are required by law to employees to ensure they are fully competent at their roles, taking reasonable and practicable steps to ensure health and safety in the workplace. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states that the employer must provide information, instruction, training and supervision to ensure that employees are fully competent when undertaking their duties.

Furthermore, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 specifically highlight where health and safety training is important. These expand to include health and safety inductions, exposure to new risks, as well as changes to the environment and processes. Penalties for health and safety violations include fines and prosecutions, both of which affect company stability, which in turn has an impact on morale and reputation.

How do you cultivate an effective health and safety training programme?

Risks can be found in any workplace, and no matter how stringent an employer is with health and safety, no premises will be one hundred percent safe. The rail sector has a vast array of different premises and working environments, from goods yard and maintenance depots to lineside buildings and offices, each of which poses varying levels of risk and the potential to cause harm.

To create an effective health and safety programme, rail organisations should implement the ‘plan, do, check, act’ rotation, which in theory will create a cycle of continuous improvement. This comprises the following actions:

  1. Decide what your organisation needs via Training Needs Analysis
  2. Decide on your training priorities according to your business’ requirements
  3. Choose your training methods and resources. Training can be a mixture of classroom-based courses or e-learning, with a blended training approach providing a flexible option for training large numbers of people
  4. Deliver the training – this can be done through face-to-face training or e-learning
  5. Check that the training has worked (regular refresher sessions are required to ensure knowledge is maintained and updated as necessary).

How can rail organisations benefit from health and safety training?

An effective training programme will reduce costs and streamline activities, enabling rail businesses to cut down on time lost through incidents. It also reduces the likelihood of workplace accidents, injuries or illnesses, which in turn ensures less disruption for line managers due to the loss of skills, knowledge and experience, as well as the time taken to seek out replacements. Additional benefits to an effective health and safety training policy include maintaining positive rapports and levels of communication among staff, boosting morale and increasing retention rates.

When applied correctly, health and safety training can have a positive influence on efficiency and productivity. This ensures that employees remain aware of the risks of health and safety training, creating a vital opportunity for employers/managers to engage with their employees and teams. It has the capacity to unite employers and employees in the pursuit of a common goal – namely, to create a safe and secure workplace that ensures the safety and success of everyone involved.

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In this episode of the Safety & Health Podcast, we hear from two women at the start of their careers, speaking about their journey into health & safety and the challenges they have faced along the way.

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