Acorn Coaching and Development

Improving business performance

Carillion

Creating and Embedding a Safety Culture in the Rail Sector

Safety continues to be a vital factor in gaining and retaining contracts for the maintenance, renewal and enhancement of the UK’s rail infrastructure.

In a growth sector that is undergoing its biggest modernisation programme since Victorian times, safety continues to sit at the top of Network Rail’s priorities. Safety must be seen to be embedded at every level of an organisation if contractors are to succeed in this highly competitive sector.

Acorn Consultant Steve Gee has delivered safety culture programmes to several of the UK’s track maintenance and renewals companies, and believes that establishing ownership of the safety procedures for each employee is key to achieving the ultimate aim – to deliver the safety objectives, and create a positive perception of the company’s safety culture which will strengthen their position as contractors to Network Rail.

  • Safety-culture-rail-sector

Background

In a growth sector that is undergoing its biggest modernisation programme since Victorian times, safety continues to sit at the top of Network Rail’s priorities. Safety must be seen to be embedded at every level of an organisation if contractors are to succeed in this highly competitive sector.

Acorn's Steve Gee explains: ‘We have worked at every level in organisations on safety issues, from the boardroom down to the guys working on the tracks. We can investigate and identify the issues within that organisation, determine key messages and strategies to positively influence the culture in favour of improved safety, and apply a ‘toolbox’ approach using elements from Roadshows and company conferences through to feedback sessions. Residential programmes for senior managers ensure that every employee is touched and engaged by the process.’

Carillon Rail

Situation

As one of several providers to Network Rail, Track Maintenance and Renewals contractor Carillion Rail found themselves in an increasingly competitive situation . At the same time safety performance was becoming a high priority for Network Rail. Carillion wished to strengthen their position as an efficient, ethical and responsible contractor; as part of this they wished to introduce a Safety Culture Programme which would deliver the required safety improvements.

Acorn designed a three-phase Leadership Programme for Middle Managers, to be later rolled out to Supervisors, which would enhance their capability to uphold and challenge safety-related behaviour.

Phase 1. Participants attended a one-day engagement ‘Roadshow’, delivered by Carillion senior management with input from Acorn Coaching, to introduce the Safety Culture initiative and explain the rationale for the programme, in order to gain ‘buy-in’ from each individual.

Phase 2. Participants attended a three-day residential Leadership Development Programme to increase their awareness and ability to influence and change the safety culture. This included:

  • How to communicate the vision in a way that genuinely engaged staff in the initiative
  • How to influence and challenge colleagues
  • Working with feedback obtained on their leadership style
  • Looking at the importance and strength of key relationships and where performance needed to be improved
  • Creating action plans for the development of the necessary leadership skills

Phase 3. 1-day event to:

  • Review progress against the personal action plan, and update the plan
  • Learn and practice a coaching approach to leadership

Outcomes

The client identified clear improvements in safety culture and performance following delivery of the programmes, and some of those outcomes are understood to have helped to shape safety best practice for the rail industry. Carillion Rail succeeded in the competitive situation and continue as one of Network Rail’s Track Maintenance and Renewals Providers.

First Engineering

Following the success of the Carillion Rail programme their then Managing Director recommended Acorn to First Engineering, who were operating in a similar capacity in Scotland. Acorn's Steve Gee designed a Safety Culture Programme in line with First Engineering’s strategic development plan. Acorn again delivered a Leadership Development Programme to create and embed a safety culture.

In addition Acorn Coaching took on primary responsibility for the delivery of the Engagement Roadshows.

Jarvis

Situation

The COO of Jarvis wished to carry out an objective external assessment into the safety culture as he had questions about how it was functioning day to day. Acorn Coaching worked with senior management to carry out behavioural analysis, alongside specialist Health and Safety Consultants who would look at procedure. As a result of the findings:

Phase 1. Acorn Coaching worked at the top level with the SMT to create a vision for stronger and more proactive safety leadership.

Phase 2. We then rolled out a series of communication events through which their vision and expectations of safety-related behaviour were shared with key influencers, to continue to cascade the initiative.

Outcome

This intervention was very well received, with our methodology for communication particularly recognised as having delivered increased honesty on the shop floor. This was considered to be a landmark in the company’s safety culture and created momentum and optimism about the company’s ability to ‘flow down’ the initiative to the crews on the ground, and embed a company-wide improved safety culture over time. Unfortunately the initiative was cut short when the company was forced into administration shortly afterwards.

Conclusion

Acorn’s Steve Gee said: ‘Visibility of the safety culture in this industry is high, and must be recognised as effective by both the client and the members of staff within the company to ensure it is sustained. Acorn has also recognised that safety focus must be sustained and refreshed on a regular basis within an organisation, because otherwise it will degrade and put lives and reputations at risk.

That inevitably requires consistent and sustained leadership from the highest levels of management.’

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Carillion

"Safety focus must be sustained and refreshed on a regular basis...otherwise it will degrade and put lives and reputations at risk"

Steve Gee, Acorn Consultant