Building a Community of Safety Leaders in European Railways

By March 3, 2024Cape Town 2023, Documents
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In 2017, the European Union Agency for Railways (ERA), with the support of a dedicated task force involving stakeholders from across the European rail sector and the French Institute for an Industrial Safety Culture (ICSI), designed a 1-day training on safety leadership, targeting rail managers at all levels.

The ERA Safety Leadership training integrated success factors from a similar initiative implemented in the oil and gas industry. In particular, it is based on a professional film concerning an accident. The video sequences, played and discussed throughout the day, progressively highlight the combination of various behaviors and decisions at different levels of the organization that led to the event.

The emotional impact of the film, based on a real accident in a rail freight yard, is a key pedagogical feature of the training, which aims to provide the necessary theoretical knowledge and practical tools to develop an effective leadership for safety within railway organizations.

Such objectives require a top-down roll-out plan: cultural change in organizations may happen only when it is continuously reinforced at the highest levels. Therefore, senior managers play a critical role and constitute the audience of the first training session, introduced by the CEO. After the training, they shall be committed to applying the tools and principles presented in the training, developing their safety leadership skills, and promoting the cultural change.

6 years later, the ERA Safety Leadership training has been disseminated during more than 50 sessions, in diverse railway organizations: infrastructure managers (Infrabel, Irish Rail), railway undertakings (DB Cargo, Eurostar, Lokaltog, Medway, VR Group,É) and entities in charge of maintenance (Ermewa). More than 600 rail professionals have been trained to become safety leaders and 33 professionals have qualified as ERA safety leadership trainers. The first ERA safety leadership summer school took place in June 2023 with the goal of improving the existing training material and elaborating the next steps of this capacity building program.

The presentation will provide the audience with the latest developments of the training curriculum and some adaptations made by local organizations to tailor the content to their specific needs. ERA representatives will describe the qualification path for training delivery, while the challenges and benefits of the approach will be witnessed by the stakeholder representatives who implemented the training in their organizations. Cross-organizational cooperation has proved to be a key ingredient in this growing community of European rail safety champions.

Year of Publication: 2023

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