Information published on 20 June 2011 in the UIC electronic newsletter "UIC eNews" Nr 243.

Two-day seminar on the Human and Organisational Aspects of Railway Safety (Paris, 18-19 May)

  • Safety
  • Human Factors

On 18 and 19 May the UIC Safety Unit held a two-day seminar on the Human and Organisational Aspects of Railway Safety. The Safety Platform Steering Group had met the day before; on several occasions during the meeting the fundamental reasons behind organising such a seminar were made clear – human and organisational factors constantly come to the fore when dealing with operational safety issues.
The seminar was intended for people in charge of safety in railway companies and the aim was to help them understand and improve management of human and organisational factors. Entitled “HUMAN BEINGS AND SAFETY IN THE RAILWAY SYSTEM”, the seminar was attended by 84 participants from:

  • member railways: SBB, CPS, SNCF, DB AG, DB AG Training, DSB, East Japan Railway Company, Euro Cargo Rail, HZ Infrastruktura, Infrabel, Jernbaneverket, MÁV (Hungarian State Railways), Network Rail, ÖBB, PKP (Polish State Railways), Renfe Operadora, RFF, SNCB, SNCB Logistics, SNTFC – CFR Passengers (Romania), Southeastern Railway, Trafikverket, Trenitalia;
  • national authorities: NSA Belgium, Norwegian Railway Administration, Romanian Railway Safety Authority, Bundesamt für Verkehr, Japan Railway Group;
  • the European Railway Agency.

P. Gerhardt (UIC) opened the seminar by welcoming participants and presenting the latest developments and changes within UIC. He presented the work carried out by the various working groups of the Safety Platform and informed participants of the programme for the two days ahead.
Y. Mortureux presented the sessions which would make up the first day:
Y. Mortureux presented the agenda for 18 May; it was dedicated to an extensive and very quick overview of human and organisational aspects of railway safety in practice.
Subsequently, he:

  • gave a swift report on the most representative human error assessment methods after a reminder of the principles behind RAMS approaches and risk assessment approaches. The salient fact was that these methods were valid only on the basis of certain assumptions, i.e. they mostly applied to tasks which could also be performed by machines;
  • presented the conditions in which safety systems were vulnerable, on the basis of accident and incident analysis. Using an extensive analysis of past experience, he described and commented on several very common characteristics (people, task, organisation, tools, prescriptions, etc.) which raised the likelihood of critical errors or failed recovery,
  • proposed three “key-values” connected to the previous points – consistency, resilience and culture – according to which the capacity of an organisation to manage risks could be examined,
  • proposed five “pillars” that could be used as foundations for action plans and improvement programmes.

In addition P. Vignes, former SNCF Human Factors Director and UIC HFWG Chairman, shared his experience on difficulties and best practices when developing “human factor” approaches in a railway company.

The second day was dedicated to recently and soon-to-be published studies and projects carried out by the UIC Safety Unit and members’ experts in the field of human factors in railway safety.
C. Neveu provided the opening words for the second day, presenting the work carried out by the UIC Human Factors Working Group, which included two studies:

The first, on local management safety checks, covered all the provisions constituting Safety Management Systems and serving to comply with legal obligations.
The aims of the study were to gather information on organisational structures, share best practices and provide member railways with a document presenting various practices in the field of local safety management.
The results of the study highlighted the importance of preparing and training those in charge of carrying out checks; in other words ensuring that their expertise was suited to the operations they are checking, training managers in carrying out checks and improving their knowledge of human factors.
He then presented the results of the second study, on psychologists’ contribution to safety in railway operations. The results highlighted the need for railway companies to broaden the range of situations in which their psychologists were involved to include accident and incident analysis, training for managers and on-field staff, and change management.
Indeed closer cooperation between psychologists, managers and safety specialists would improve analyses and in some cases facilitate decision-making.
V. Papillault subsequently presented the main results of the project on human and organisational aspects of safety at border crossings.
She informed participants of the main observations made during this study after risks had been identified; the high-risk situations could be divided into four fields: environment and technological systems, safety procedures and documentation, language and culture, and organisation and management.
She then provided some recommendations for these high-risk situations in each of the four aforementioned fields.
Representatives such as B. Penners (Infrabel), J. Thurler (SBB) and B. Dandeville (SNCF) then highlighted the interest shown within their companies for the project and how they would implement it on the field and within their current organisational structures.

The afternoon session was opened by C. Clifton, who presented the work carried out by the Occupational Health and Safety Group of the Safety Platform. He gave a brief presentation of the work on a guidance document for the use of high-visibility clothing and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for staff working on the tracks. He also mentioned the work carried out on mobile phone use, which would soon be coming to a conclusion. Finally he listed upcoming projects, in particular one on noise management and another on accident and incident investigations.

V. Papillault presented the outcome of work on the management of emotionally distressing events and prevention of post-traumatic stress, which was carried out by a task-force set up by the Occupational Health and Safety Group of the Safety Platform.
She explained the management strategy for potentially traumatic events chosen for the guide; it was divided into five levels: risk assessment, preparation and prevention, intervention, postvention and monitoring, and reporting and making use of the results of experience analyses. She then provided details of the recommendations developed for these five levels. Finally she presented the guidance sheets containing practical information for key players in this field on subjects such as training and raising awareness among those involved, monitoring staff and reintegrating them into their posts, and action to be taken before, during and after a traumatic event.

S. Gröben of DB Training gave a presentation with very practical information on post-traumatic stress and its prevention at DB AG.
She provided extensive information on the subject area and explained the key features for a successful and effective post-traumatic stress management procedure. More specifically she presented the current situation at DB AG, their measures for dealing with traumatic events and the care provided to affected staff and customers following a traumatic event.

Participants were clearly satisfied with the two-day event, as shown by:

  • the many questions raised by participants,
  • debates on important subjects that began but could not continue due to the inevitably restricted nature of such an event,
  • warm expressions of interest and satisfaction during the seminar and in the days that followed.
    Two days were not enough to cover the vast subject area that is organisational and human factors; nevertheless operators, UIC members and their partners in national and European authorities were able to identify many practical approaches in the railway sector that opened up many prospects for the future.
    ERA (the European Railway Agency) made an unequivocal call for the railway sector to share their experience in this delicate field to help the Agency take into account organisational and human aspects in their work (Common Safety Methods=CSM, Safety Management Systems=SMS, Common Safety Methods for Monitoring, etc.).

To repeat the message given in person at the close of the event, UIC members who wish to take part in work carried out by the HFWG (Human Factors Working Group) of the Safety Platform are invited to contact Virginie PAPILLAULT in particular; the work will include subjects such as:

  • Staff training and drills for highly disrupted situations
  • Safety culture
  • Taking into account organisational and human factors in SMSs

For more information please contact Virginie Papillault, UIC Senior Advisor Human Factors: