On 11 October the UIC Safety Platform held its steering group meeting under the chairmanship of J.M. Richard. The usual informal discussion on recent safety-critical events was particularly fruitful. The formal part of the meeting was an opportunity to review the activities of the platform’s working groups in 2011 and to validate, discuss and approve the proposals submitted by these groups for their activities planned for 2012.
A large part of the Safety Platform’s activity is ongoing and remains constant from one year to the next, such as supporting the CER safety experts working with ERA, sharing information regarding events, recent developments relating to safety, providing data for the safety database, monitoring statistics, etc. Other activities, despite their underlying continuity, are punctuated at regular intervals by visible events, such as the publications released by the Occupational Health and Safety and Human Factors groups, as well as seminars organised by the latter.
The annual plenary meeting held on the same day was an occasion to share this work and projects with the representatives of UIC members who wished to participate.
The following day, a seminar co-organised by the Safety Platform and the Freight Forum brought together speakers and participants from various backgrounds on the theme of controlling the risks involved in loading. Various opinions were expressed, detailed information given and a number of conclusions easily drawn:
- Railways today are a reliable and safe means of transport – not due to chance or by their nature – but because those involved do what is needed. This is especially true for freight loads.
- The development of the sector in Europe is significantly increasing the number of players with a role and responsibility in the area of load safety. Safety levels will be maintained if every player is aware and takes responsibility.
- These responsibilities are clearly stated in existing texts (COTIF and its annexes, Safety Directive, contracts). The methods of ensuring safety are well known, kept up-to-date and disseminated (loading guidelines established by UIC based on the experience of its members, which constitute a reliable code of practice).
- The origin of residual risks and recent accidents has been identified: the problem is not gaps in the regulations but due to shortcomings in the implementation of the latter and of loading guidelines.
- Further progress should be made in two areas:
* Technological advances enabling infrastructure managers to improve identification of hazards from convoys (including freight loads)
* Improved training for staff, customers and shippers in charge of loading
The situation today is considered to be satisfactory; the developments and reorganisation underway pose some challenges to successfully adapting and maintaining quality of service, economic value and safety. To meet these challenges, the regulatory framework has been put in place, the knowledge required is available, and the seminar helped strengthen the involvement of players. UIC, its members and partners will not fail to maintain momentum.