Industry leaders speaking.... the ICC in Birmingham on 20 May, 2010, included John Abbott of RSSB and Steve Fink, recently appointed Head of HSEA (Investment Projects) at Network Rail.

John Abbott set the scene describing the challenge for the “railway family” to improve upon safety. In an industry where accidents are viewed as a “barometer” of success, reducing the number of safety related incidents may “make or break” the railway. Last year there were 144 fatalities or serious injuries. Improvements have been made but increased focus should now to be given to reducing the number of “slips and trips” at the passenger interface.

Steve Fink of Network Rail illustrated dramatically with live case studies the challenge of trying to embed a safety culture in the working railway. The acceptance of “all orange” clothing has been a successful development, as has Network Rail’s “Safety Central” promotion. "Plan to work and work to plan" was Steve’s key message. The consequences of not doing so were vividly illustrated.

Steve also explained how Network Rail now employs senior staff from parallel engineering disciplines, including the marine and aviation sectors, and how these "non career railway" people, are bringing fresh ideas to the industry.

This theme was picked up later by ITIC who drew parallels with the lessons learned by the marine sector over the last two centuries. Rail is a far younger industry than marine and might learn some lessons from it. The marine sector has 13 of its own, industry owned, insurance companies for example. Aviation is also worth a look as they have developed practical risk sharing models between major contractors and smaller sub-contractors, thereby making insurance more affordable for the smaller company.

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