Our policies and approach to health and safety regulation

Our regulatory approach

Our regulatory approach focuses on the business, commercial, and health and safety risks that may cause harm to employees, passengers and the general public. Health and safety is not an optional add-on, but a fundamental legal requirement – and it is good for business. The railway industry in Britain is made up of many businesses and we oversee them and how they work together to keep the railway system safe.

A business will be safe if its people manage risks effectively every day. This is best achieved by businesses having excellent health and safety management systems that coordinate their people and have processes to identify, assess and control risks effectively. Our role is to check that they do this and comply with the law.

To implement this regulatory approach we spend our time:

  • setting objectives, outputs and expectations for health and safety duty holders;
  • gathering evidence about their management of risks through our regular audits, inspections, investigations of incidents or complaints and monitoring of health and safety performance indicators, including reports by RAIB, RSSB, Transport for London, passenger groups, trade unions and the travelling public;
  • using our evidence, taking an efficient risk-based approach to regulation through regular systematic reviews of our strategic risk priorities and enablers which enables us to target our resources on the right things;
  • responding to health and safety incidents;
  • using our powers and influence to help the industry work together to tackle common issues, such as staff competence, health management, and managing change;
  • using appropriate enforcement tools to ensure duty holders take immediate action to deal with serious risks and are if necessary are held to account in the Courts;
  • supporting the development of the legal framework in Europe; and
  • preparing, as necessary, proposals for railway specific health and safety regulations and guidance; using our RM3 model (RM3) to help encourage businesses towards excellence in health and safety management.

We will not settle for a culture of complacency. We will always ask whether improvement can be made, but we recognise that the law sets minimum standards and that an excellent organisation is one that delivers compliance with the law efficiently and consistently. We encourage excellence, but will not enforce beyond the standard set down in law. If designed carefully at the outset, risks can be eliminated or reduced and a railway system is more likely to be operated and maintained safely and efficiently.

Our legislative policy and better regulation work

A sound legal framework and continuous improvement of our regulatory approach are vital if the industry is to achieve our vision for health and safety on the railway. We are responsible for preparing proposals for railway safety regulations and to ensure these are accompanied by simple, clear guidance to support compliance.

Most railway safety law now originates from Europe and we work closely with DfT to ensure the UK has the appropriate framework of law and meets its obligations under European requirements.

Level crossing law reform

We have actively pursued implementation of the Law Commission's 2013 recommendations to reform level crossing law. We are working with DfT to help secure this much needed reform.

Our health and safety policy work

In 2014-15 we:

Our statutory functions:

Our proactive and reactive inspection work

Our inspectors spent 54% of their time carrying out proactive inspections that were targeted in line with our risk priority strategy. Our inspectors spent 16% of their time responding to accidents, incidents and complaints from members of the public through their reactive inspection work.

Safety certification and authorisation

We received and processed 17 ROGS safety certifications and authorisations:

  • three were non-mainline safety certificates and two authorisations; and
  • 14 mainline certifications and authorisations, of which four were for part 'A' and three were part 'B' certifications, and seven applications for both parts A and B.

Train driver licences

We are processing train driver licences manually. We received 1,826 train driver licence applications and issued 1,574 applications in 2014-15. We have specified and will build an IT system to enable operators to submit applications remotely.

Our work in Europe

We support the development of a European framework which promotes market opening, and improves the railways' competitiveness, while ensuring that a robust safety regime is in place. To achieve these goals, our priorities in Europe continue to be:

  • ensuring that safety management systems are at the heart of the European safety regime;
  • encouraging proper implementation throughout Europe of the obligations and responsibilities in the Railway Safety Directive, and developing practical arrangements to deliver improvements envisaged in the fourth railway package; and
  • developing working arrangements between national safety authorities (NSAs) to achieve a more harmonised approach to supervision and enforcement.

We have worked constructively with the European Commission and the European Railway Agency (ERA) throughout the year. Key aspects of our engagement included:

  • leading an initiative by NSAs to work with ERA to prepare for the changes which will be introduced by the technical pillar of the fourth railway package. The changes will give ERA responsibility for issuing single safety certificates for cross-border operators, and for issuing vehicle authorisations for cross-border services. Applicants for domestic-only safety certificates or vehicle authorisations will have the choice of applying to the NSA of that country, or to ERA;
  • assisting ERA to develop and introduce its Regulatory Monitoring Matrix, which examines railway safety regulation in a member state and how the systems set up by the Ministry, NSA and National Investigation Body work together; and
  • influencing the development of changes to the common safety methods (CSM) on conformity assessment and supervision. These changes are designed to ensure a more harmonised approach by NSAs and to align the CSMs with industry's safety management systems and with the structure of International Organisation for Standardization (ISO) management standards.

Our own plans for continuous improvement

We have used, and will continue to use, our own RM3-R model to help us to identify opportunities for continuous improvement in our own management systems. 

The safety of the Channel Tunnel

We regulate health and safety of the Channel Tunnel and the companies that use it via the Channel Tunnel Intergovernmental Commission (IGC) and the Channel tunnel Safety Authority (CTSA) in close co-operation with our French counterparts. The key principles of our health and safety vision and strategy for the railway in Britain apply equally to the Channel Tunnel. We continue to provide leadership, expert advice and secretariat support to the Channel Tunnel's IGC and CTSA. Our inspectors are appointed to lead and deliver CTSA's inspection plan, which aims to provide assurance that Eurotunnel and train operators' management systems are capable of managing the specific risks associated with the operation of the Channel Tunnel. In the past year, IGC and CTSA have:

  • commissioned an independent investigation into Eurotunnel's management of the causes and consequences of serious disruption incidents, following the serious fire of 17 January 2015;
  • carried out a major study gathering evidence to improve how emergency evacuations are managed in the Channel Tunnel, and started working closely with Eurotunnel and train operators to implement the findings;
  • been audited by a team from ERA, and agreed a plan to improve our processes, guidance and safety risk modelling following their recommendations; and
  • completed an inspection plan that examined aspects of Eurotunnel's management of risk and train operators' management systems.