Memorandum by the Trades Union Congress
I understand that, at a recent hearing of the
House of Commons Transport Select Committee, the issue of enforcement
of health and safety within the railways was raised.
I am writing to give the Trades Union Congress's
view. The current arrangement ensures that the regulation and
enforcement of health and safety is independent of the industry.
As such it is more effective, and transparent. Despite a number
of recent tragic and high-profile accidents, the number of fatalities
and injuries on the railways has been decreasing over the past
Were regulation of safety to be transferred
either to the Government department responsible for transport
(as was the case prior to 1990) or to the Office of the Rail Regulator
then they would no longer be able to draw on the wider expertise
of an organisation which oversees a wide range of industries.
One of the strengths of the current arrangements is that it allows
expertise and lessons learnt from outwith the industry to be applied
to the rail industry.
It is also important that the same standards
of safety and risk management principles are consistently applied
and enforced across all or industry, and that the rail industry
is not treated any differently from other industries. A separate
regulatory regime for one industry would not be consistent with
that. Additionally, many of the companies operating on the railways
are not solely rail companies. In fact many are construction or
maintenance companies operating as contractors who are undertaking
similar work for industries outside the railways. To have a separate
body responsible for enforcing safety in the railways will mean
these companies will have to operate to different regimes, and
potentially different standards depending on the industry in which
The current arrangements allow for consultation
with the workforce on safety issues, through the Railway Industry
Advisory Committee and the Health and Safety Commission, both
of which have employee and employer representatives sitting on
them in equal numbers. These bodies also deal with the wider issues
of health and safety such as fatigue, stress, back pain and other
occupational health issues which are responsible for far more
injuries than rail accidents. The Committee will be aware that
in his second report on the Ladbroke Grove Public Inquiry, Lord
Cullen emphasised the important role that employee elected safety
representatives have in the rail industry (Paragraph 4.99).
We would be concerned if there was any move
to compromise safety on the railways by moving it to any body
which was primarily responsible for the economic regulation, or
political control of the industry as this could lead to discussions
on safety being made on political or economic grounds.
However we would wish to emphasise that the
HSE must have sufficient resources to allow it to work with the
rail industry in developing and enforcing appropriate standards
to ensure the safety of both the public and the staff who work
on our railways. That has not always been the case.
The TUC hopes that the Select Committee will
share its view that safety on the railways must be paramount.
That can best be achieved by ensuring that the railways are regulated
in a way that is consistent with other industries.