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Transport & Logistics

Targeting the greatest rail risks | Interviews with Kevin Thompson & David Murton

25 Feb 2015, by Informa Insights

The 2015 Rail Safety conference, 24-26 March in Melbourne, is one of the most important events for the rail industry. We sat down in the lead up with two of the international speakers to talk about what they perceive as the greatest risks for the sector.

Kevin Thompson is Railway Risk Advisor with the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB), UK and will be making a keynote presentation.

Kevin Thompson, RSSBKevin, can you tell us a little about your professional background and what led you to your current position?
After studying Psychology and Ergonomics I started my career as a Human Factors Consultant, working in all sectors including the Oil and Gas industry.  I was working on post Piper-Alpha Evacuation Escape and Rescue studies when I then started looking at the scenarios that led to evacuation and escape; this took me into the world of Quantified Risk Analysis.  Shortly afterwards I joined the railway, again as a Consultant, initially helping with the first Safety Cases required as result of GB rail privatisation.  I’ve stayed with the railway ever since.

The theme for this year’s conference is “Rail Safety – it’s everyone’s responsibility”. What are some of the tools RSSB has employed to encourage a culture of responsibility?
One of RSSB’s main roles is to support our members in what ways they require.  Developing a culture of workforce responsibility is generally dealt with separately by each member company.  We provide resources to enable them to do this such as the Safety Culture Toolkit, training in non-technical skills and also provide forums through which they can share information.  A greater challenge is encouraging passengers and members of the public to take responsibility for their behaviours.  Passenger and public behaviours at the platform train interface is a component of a recently published industry strategy which was facilitated by RSSB .

You will also be delivering an address on “Risk Management”. Can you give us a brief overview of why risk management is an essential process in railway safety?
Firstly, there is a legal duty to reduce risk to as low as reasonably practicable, so there is a legal due to manage risk.  Businesses need to know where to prioritise safety resources this involves identifying and targeting the areas of greatest risk.  Monitoring changes in risk can be used to refocus attention and resources to the most appropriate places.  When making a change we need to ensure that it does not import unnecessary additional risk, this involves the use of risk assessment techniques.

What are RSSB’s main concerns in the UK now, and for the foreseeable future?
RSSB is owned by its members; we listen to them and respond to their needs. We are particularly responsible for helping manage cross industry issues such as trespass, suicide, signals passed at danger, introduction of new technologies etc.  In the foreseeable future, horizon scanning is becoming more important to understand how global and societal changes may impact upon the railway.  Relevant issues include climate change, social media and mobile technology.

David Murton is Chief Investigator of the Railway Accident Investigation Unit in Dublin, Ireland. He will also be speaking at the 2015 RISSB Rail Safety conference, 24 – 26 March in Melbourne. We took the opportunity to ask David about his background.

Can you tell us a little about your background and your current role?
My career in the railways has spanned over 30 years, mostly working in railway operations for Northern Ireland Railways, covering various operational and management roles up to the position of Professional Head of Operations. eight years ago I was appointed Chief Investigator of the Railway Accident Investigation Unit (RAIU) in Ireland, and have built up as small but dynamic team that are responsible for investigating railway accidents in Ireland.  The RAIU are a functionally independent unit within the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport in Ireland

What are your priorities in 2015?
To deal with our current resource shortages and continue to  investigate accidents or incidents to improve the safety of the railways, and to prevent further accidents from occurring.

What key progressions have been made in the industry in the past five years?

  • Established the National Investigation body in Ireland
  • Built a dynamic team of well trained and competent investigators
  • Delivered high quality investigation reports to the industry.

 What are you hoping to impart to delegates at Rail Safety as an overseas presenter?
I would hope to convey to delegates that while there may be some unique aspects to our railway organisations we share common problems and difficulties and through conferences we can share experiences to deal with and manage these issues.

What are you looking forward to at the Rail Safety Conference 2015?
I am looking forward to learning and sharing experiences that will assist the development of safety within our industry.

Book now to hear from Kevin Thompson, David Murton and a range of expert speakers at one of the rail industry’s most important events, the 2015 Rail Safety Conference, 24 – 26 March.

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