Rail Safety Summit: Changing passenger behaviour

With two weeks to go until this year’s Rail Safety Summit, First Capital Connect’s (FCC) managing director, David Statham, talks about how the operator is trying to change passenger behaviour and improve safety on its trains and stations.


Q: A lot of the focus tends to be around track worker safety, but what do First Capital Connect (FCC) do to ensure the safety of passengers?

A: Safety is our number one priority, and FCC has, and is continuing to, invest to make significant improvements to achieve our goal to reduce passenger accidents. We have delivered improvements to the conditions of our asset s over the years, which have reduced hazards.

However, having analysed accident data over several years, we concluded that now around 80 per cent of incidents were due to behavioural issues rather than the environmental conditions and have therefore initiated activities to address this particular area.

We have developed and launched a brand new behaviour campaign, using the “Etiquette” brand of booklet and themed posters to influence our customers’ behaviours at stations and on trains.

As a result, we have gathered very positive results from our customer surveys. Spontaneous awareness of safety has increased from 6 per cent (in the pre-test) to 27 per cent and prompted awareness has increased from 11 per cent (in the pre-test) to 45 per cent. Seventy-seven per cent of respondents have said that they would modify their behaviour as a result of the etiquette campaign (compared with 29 per cent in the before survey results.)

This shows a drastic improvement in awareness, which we can assume will lead to modified behaviours at stations and on trains.

What are the most common passenger health and safety risks you encounter?

Our passengers most frequent safety risks were addressed by our new campaign, and included the following risks:

  • Running for the train
  • Using escalators and stairs in an unsafe manner, and misjudgement of the height
  • The gap between the train and the platform
  • Wet surfaces due to the inclement weather
  • Our vulnerable customers e.g. under the influence of alcohol, elderly customers and people using buggies

Some 80 per cent of passenger accidents are associated with passenger behaviour, it is these areas in which we are continuing to focus our attention.

Part of your job is to make sure passengers feel safe when they use your trains, but do you think they fully understand the dangers of a live railway?

Network Rail do a lot of very good work alongside the train operators to educate customers of all age groups, but mainly children, about the dangers of the railway. There is a schools engagement programme and level crossing campaign, both of which we support. We complement this with campaigns for the areas we are directly responsible for i.e. stations and trains.

We are very keen for all of our customers to be aware of safe behaviours, and this is why we publish safety guidelines on our website (for using escalators and stairs, the platform, getting on and off, and for vulnerable customers). We issue regular automated safety messages at stations, and have supplemented this with our new etiquette campaign which is beginning to show effects.  We are also using roving microphones to draw individual and group attention to passengers putting themselves in danger, such as standing too close to the platform edge.

There is a slow process of education which we must all deliver to improve safety in the railway environment.

How important is it, do you feel, to have an annual forum for safety executives to discuss current issues and share best practice?

This conference allows us to have a two-way forum with the leaders with whom we shape our industry and individual strategy and delivery of plans. The conference also allows leaders from across the business to spend a day talking about our safety priorities, brainstorming about improvement plans, sharing thoughts on best practice and exchanging views and experience on safety matters. Safety fora should not just be for the safety teams to attend, in order for us to continue to lead by example we need to share our experiences.

What is the approach within FCC to occupational health and safety?

Injury Prevention, a process of listening to our staff, and involving them in producing solutions to safety problems has been in place at FirstGroup TOCs for a number of years. FCC have enthusiastically embraced this since its inception and recognise that our group’s better than average staff injury rates owe much to the programme.

We are also about to roll out a refreshed reporting mechanisms for employee safety, using a new database for reporting injury prevention contacts and conversations so we can gather more information from the conversations with colleagues, which will help us to identify both local and systemic weaknesses.

The success of the etiquette campaign for passenger safety is being mirrored by projects to change the safety culture at FCC and encourage employees to adopt Safety summitpositive behaviours and emulate those behaviours amongst colleagues.  Although we reduced the numbers and severity of injuries by 7 per cent last year, we believe that further improvements are possible.

Our “Team etiquette” campaign will focus on the common causes of workforce accidents, a series of characters have been developed for functions for example in customer services, drivers and on depots, to ensure that safety messages are appropriate and targeted for the audience. Safety message boards are also being introduced to highlight current areas of risk and what we and colleagues can do to reduce risk and prevent injuries in their workplaces.

We are embarking on a significant behavioural change programme using “Good to Great teams”, composed of trained colleagues from across the business who will act as safety engagement champions for safety and develop” nudge” techniques, to gradually change how both passengers and colleagues behave, and encourage the adoption of safe behaviours.

Reducing staff assaults is also one of our key commitment and in 2013 we introduced a new Violence at Work policy supported by a new care and support policy. Line managers, team leaders and Health & Safety representatives were all trained on these policies using a conflict specialist to deliver the message. We have experienced a reduction of 32 per cent in physical assaults to our staff, and these have been less severe than previous years reducing days lost by 40 per cent. We are trialling personal CCTV to be used at assault hotspots. Drivers are receiving conflict resolution briefing to protect them from risk of assaults.

In terms of Health & Safety best practise, is there anything that the rail industry can learn from other industries?

We can always learn from other industries, for example; The Rail Incident Care Teams were developed from the Airline industry model and indeed now have informal mutual assistance arrangements between the industries.

ATOC members have looked at how Airlines manage fatigue, and are identifying transferrable ideas and concepts from their rostering processes and risk assessments.

How the Oil  and Chemical industries manage cultural change has also been studied to help us as an industry introduce shifts in safety culture.

Occupational health is an area for further development in the industry. We are only just beginning to understand the potential risks identified in this vast subject, which in some areas, is little understood even amongst OH professionals.

The Rail Industry is sometimes considered to be inward looking, and old fashioned, however, as the above examples show, we do look around to identify things to help us improve.

Do you look at operators in Europe and the rest of the world to see what technology and initiatives they are implementing to improve safety?

Yes, through ATOC and RSSB membership and briefings, but can we learn more?

Being part of a multinational Group we share information with  our sister rail companies, UK Bus and North American operations through joint safety conferences and meetings which can lead to the transfer of ideas between both continents and industry.

We attended a presentation from Vancouver to learn from their experiences of the Winter Olympics which helped to inform our measures for the successful London 2012 Olympics

The technology exists but is not yet in place to interrogate the on-train data recorder (OTDR) for each journey, this could be used to enable drivers to develop better or more efficient driving techniques, perhaps giving them a score  per journey and feedback of braking technique etc. This could then go to produce score per depot so that best practices can be identified and shared. Similar schemes are already available for buses, such as “drive green”.

Once the TLP is fully operational, and running under ATO, we will have the challenges of high-frequency trains, high passenger flows to manage safely, we are already looking at how these systems work elsewhere in order to ensure that best practices are introduced at each stage of our transformation.

Are there any innovative ways of working that you have seen that you think should to be developed across the UK to improve safety standards?

There are quite a number of exciting initiative which are becoming possible now, either through improved understanding of behaviours, through to improvements in technology, for example;

  • Passenger awareness monitors (PAMs) have reduced gateline staff assaults, introduced over  the last two years  these have been very instrumental in reducing assaults at locations where they are fitted
  • Body worn cameras used by revenue protection officers, are being introduced to deter potential assault, our experience with these appears to be positive in this respect
  • Behavioural change has to be recognised as a key factor in relation to accident reduction.
  • As station improvements are made and newer safer rolling stock is introduced.
  • Our Etiquette campaign is a fairly innovative way of engaging with passengers, combining safety and other behaviour messages in an interesting way.  Surveys have shown that is a very positive means of engagement. We are rolling out a similar campaign to increase our staff engagement with safety initiatives.
  • We have recently trained safety engagement champions and empowered them and their team to revitalise Injury Prevention activities. They have come up with some really great ideas which we are putting into practice of the coming weeks. We know that Injury Prevention works as a concept and in practise. It has been in place at all FirstGroup companies for several years now. Comparison of staff injury rates now against when it started show clear positive and widening differentiation between FirstGroup TOC employee injury rates and those of the rest of the TOC community.
  • We are increasingly seeing the use of wifi based training and competency tools being used within the UK and elsewhere, this will continue to be developed.
  • Forward facing CCTV is also a useful tool, post event, to aid investigation of incidents and provide information to help prevent future incidents
  • Retina monitoring for fatigue is a new innovation which may help us to identify drivers who are either fatigued or experience microsleep events. It is being used for example in heavy haul mining companies in Australia to identify fatigued drivers and audibly warn them to pay attention! Certainly one to watch for the future.

The Rail Safety Summit is being held at London’s Royal College of Physicians on April 28. Click here for information about the event.