Why develop rail manager competence on occupational health?

Why the rail industry should do more to improve the competence of its managers on health, including the business benefits and ORR's 2010 baseline assessment of health management in rail.

Employers have duties under health and safety law to consider the capabilities of their employees, including managers, and to provide the health and safety training they need to do their job.

Ensuring that your front line managers have the right level of skills and knowledge on occupational health will help them to fulfil their responsibilities for managing the health risks to their staff.

It should also deliver real business benefits by increasing productivity, reducing sickness absence and costly insurance claims, and helping you to get the most from specialist occupational health practitioners.

If you equip your managers to look after the health as well as the safety of your workers now, you are less likely to store up expensive problems for either your business or your workforce in the future.

Dame Carol Black's 'Working for a healthier tomorrow' review of the health of Britain's working age population identified line managers as a key agent of change and recommended that 'line managers should be supported to understand that the health and wellbeing of employees is their responsibility, and should be willing to take action when health and well-being are at risk'.

We identified a need for improved competence on occupational health among rail managers in our baseline assessment of health management in the rail industry in 2010.

We found evidence of poor understanding of health based risk assessment by managers; too much focus on reactive management of ill health and managing for attendance; and a lack of clarity over the respective roles and responsibilities of front line managers, Human Resources (HR), and occupational health practitioners in managing occupational health.

In response to our health programme 2010-14 pdf icon PDF, 707 Kb, mainline rail companies have, in consultation with RSSB, identified 'increased line management competence and buy in' as a key issue in moving the mainline industry forward in its management of occupational health risks.

Ensuring that front line managers and supervisors develop and maintain the appropriate skills and knowledge in health risk management will be an important component in delivering this aim.