Laurie Wilson has over 30 years’ rail industry experience, covering a broad range of the industry from construction and maintenance, to educational design development and facilitation.
He also has expertise in safe-working standards development, project and innovations management as well as Rail Safety investigations and coordination.
Laurie is currently Manager, Rail Industry Safety Standards Board (RISSB) on the development of national standards. He will be speaking at the RISSB Major Rail Occurrences Forum, 28 – 29 April in Sydney.
We sat down with Laurie in the lead up to the conference to discuss the key themes for 2015.
Laurie, why do you see the major occurrences forum as an important industry event and what are you hoping delegates will gain from it?
The forum has been specifically designed and focused on learning from major occurrences. What happened, why and how is it to be prevented from occurring again. The participants will gain an understanding of where things have gone wrong and hopefully take the knowledge back to their own organisations and review what they have in place and make improvements to potentially prevent them from having a similar occurrence.
Please tell us a little about what your major concerns are in your current role?
Rail organisations are getting a lot leaner and very commercially focused. Their internal safety and operations take up their valuable time. Opportunities like this forum are one way that they can obtain a wider view of industry occurrences and trends, also potentially how they measure against other organisations.
What is RISSB’s involvement in major occurrences and why are they high on the agenda?
All rail safety occurrences are high on the RISSB agenda. The RISSB plays an important role in the development of national rail industry standards. These standards are developed to assist industry in managing identified rail hazards. The RISSB does this by developing the standards, codes and guidelines that provide industry with controls to help manage risks within the rail environment. Adoption by the industry provides them with a level of assurance that their risks are being managed to a level consistent with nationally recognised good practice.
What is the aim of the conference this year?
The key objective of the forum is to learn from others. One of the benefits from a good investigation into an occurrence is the recommendations and lessons that industry can learn. The best of investigations is wasted if it sits on a shelf and no one gains benefit from it. If we do not learn from the occurrence then we are doomed to repeat them. The best way to learn from occurrences is to learn from others and prevent having the same type in your organisation.
Please explain what you will be talking about at the forum…
The RISSB run a Derailments Investigation and Analysis Workshop and this year is running a Rail Safety Investigations course. These are two products that the RISSB have been asked to develop on behalf of its industry members. I am taking an important component of that and delivering a short session on report writing. The result of any investigation is lost if the report does not accurately reflect the investigation process and findings. The reports must link issues throughout to lead to credible recommendations. The best of technical investigations can be let down if the reports are not written correctly.
Where do you think the industry is headed in the future?
Rail travel is one of the safest forms of transport. This results in a low number of major occurrences to learn from. The increased understanding of the hazards and the introduction of national standards has resulted in a further reduction in occurrences. This is good news as it means even safer travel. This has the additional effect of even less occurrences to learn from and leads to less skills and knowledge in the investigations area. It is critical that rail now and in the future recognises the need to have qualified skilled investigators to investigate and report on these occurrences when they do occur. Currently the national investigator ATSB undertakes a small number of investigations into these major occurrences supported by some state based investigations departments. The occurrences left (major and general) need to be investigated by the organisations involved in the occurrence. The rail industry has more and more organisations shipping products on a joint network. In the future I see the need for more qualified investigators to ensure that when multiple organisations are involved in the occurrence the investigation is carried out to a high level and each organisation is represented well. If you look to other countries like the USA then you will see a number of occurrences investigations not just satisfying the needs for improved safety but also to demonstrate the systems and processes put in place to manage the risks, are in place, are understood and do control the risks.
Find out more about the RISSB Major Rail Occurrences Forum, taking place on the 28 – 29 April in Sydney.