Information published on 20 June 2012 in the UIC electronic newsletter "UIC eNews" Nr 297.

UIC Africa seminar on Safety Management and Human Factors (Tunis 5 – 6 June)

  • Africa
  • Human Factors

This seminar, which brought together over 80 people, was organised in collaboration with Tunisian Railways and UIC Africa. The aim was to share experiences in safety management practices at the various participating railways and to jointly establish a common approach to human factors.

The first session on safety management was moderated by Mr Mouldi Zouaoui (SNCFT). During the first part of the session, Mr Moha Khaddour presented ONCF’s new safety management system based on a proactive systems approach that encourages staff participation and formally commits all levels within the chain of command.

Subsequently, Mr Jean Télesphore Ella Nze from SETRAG highlighted the difficulties encountered by his network with regard to railway safety. To resolve these difficulties, a number of measures have been taken regarding the implementation of procedures and their monitoring, learning from incidents and feedback.

After that, Mr Mohamed Wely Salem from Mauritanian Railways informed participants of the recent developments that have taken place in railway safety. He added that virtually the entire railway crosses dunes and sand plains and, due to frequent wind, is constantly covered by sand. These exceptionally sandy conditions thus wear the railway track exceptionally quickly compared to the usual conditions experienced by other railways.

Finally, Mr Hani Hijab from Egyptian Railways highlighted the importance of his network and the fact that Egyptian National Railways is one the biggest organisations in Egypt and the Arab world. He informed participants that 95% of accidents result from human errors (ENR staff or passengers). This matter highlights the need to focus on human factors in order to find solutions.

To conclude, Anne-Lise Joly from SNCF addressed the central issues of railway interoperability as it relates to safety. She specified that interoperability helps maintain the current safety levels in the railway systems of each EU Member State by encouraging common rules to be drafted for all of them (TSIs, harmonised standards).

This first session concluded with a round table led by Mr Karim Ayache (SNCFT) on the prospects of developing railway safety in Africa. Before opening the floor to participants, Mr Peter Gerhardt (UIC) presented the activities conducted by the UIC Safety Unit in various areas: human factors, occupational health and safety, the safety database, level crossings, etc. Next, Mr George Emmanoulopoulos informed participants about the EuroMed regional transport project. He underlined the importance that the project gives to railway safety and to the experience shared across the Mediterranean region.

The second session of the seminar led by Mr Moha Khaddour (ONCF), and which focused on human, social and organisational factors (HSOF), opened with a presentation by Mrs Meryem Belhaj (UIC) on the consideration given to human factors in the area of safety. This presentation emphasised the approach to HSOF which consists in identifying and implementing the conditions likely to elicit a positive contribution from operators and the public towards safety. Integrating HSOF into safety management is to consider safety to be the result of everybody’s work: design, organisation, operation, audit and monitoring. Following this speech, Mr Mohamed Fethi presented the policy of consideration for human factors at ONCF. The presentation focused on several aspects. One of the most important is that changes of any kind must be anticipated in order to implement a suitable support plan.

Mr Jean-Marc Gibot from SETRAG (Gabon) pinpointed the specific characteristics of his network and the important role of the environment and the culture of individuals when taking into consideration human factors. He thus highlighted that attitudes towards risk are different: it should be addressed rather than avoided. In view of this, the remedial action taken focuses on the railway system as a whole and seeks to create “comfortable” conditions around operators that are likely to ensure that rules are complied with.

Mr Mourad Tazdait from Algerian Railways (SNTF) explained three types of accidents based on his network’s analysis and demonstrated their direct link to human factors (root cause). He explained to the attendees that to significantly improve safety, an extensive programme to modernise the network had been initiated. He added that a safety audit conducted by an outside body was planned in order to assess the network’s safety levels.

Following the presentations about the consideration of human factors in safety management, the second part of this session focused on occupational health and safety. Dr Faten Debbabi presented a study on the “Work conditions and the mental workload of drivers and SNCFT staff”. The aim of this work is firstly to describe the socio-occupational profile of traffic personnel and train drivers, and then to determine the risk factors for work-related stress and their effects on the psychological well-being of these individuals. Mr Benoît Joly then presented the INFRABEL study on stress at work. He underlined that the effects of stress can lead to illness and distress and can also compromise safety in the workplace and significantly harm an organisation’s performance. The cost for companies is also a crucial factor. The annual economic cost of work-related stress in Europe is estimated to be 20 billion euros.

In conclusion Mrs Meryem Belhaj (UIC) presented the different major working areas identified during the round table in the first session and during discussions held in the second session.

  • 1st environmental strand: consideration must be given to climate change, significant population growth, technological developments and social and societal trends.
  • 2nd strand: Create a platform for sharing experience based on the establishment of common values and a shared outlook for the region through, for example, organising events in collaboration with UIC Africa and its regional office, publishing a regional eNews for Africa in the future and organising training through the creation of a regional training centre for Africa.
  • 3rd strand: the importance of human and social sciences in the area of safety

For further information please contact Meryem Belhaj, senior advisor for international training and human factors: belhaj@uic.org