Health & Safety Management Systems

Transforming Health & Safety culture

Our Safety Culture Strategy

Implementing the Network Rail and Thameslink Programme vision and objective of everyone home safe, every day required a cultural transformation across the Programme and its suppliers.

You can read the 10-Year Health & Safety Report here.

The objective of this cultural improvement was that everyone working with Thameslink Programme would be responsible for their own and each other’s safety.

This would, in turn, eliminate injuries and become a cultural value for Network Rail and its suppliers. At the outset, the prevalent culture towards safety was benchmarked, and an action plan then set in place to eliminate injuries through a systematic approach to cultural improvement.

In this interview, Mark Lincoln, Principle Programme Engineer discusses the setting up of the processes and procedures behind the construction of London Bridge station.

Beyond Health & Safety statistics

At this point the Safety Culture Strategy began to be developed, driven by the Network Rail Health & Safety team and supported by Thameslink Programme leadership and suppliers. As part of the strategy, seven cultural themes were developed by Network Rail which were used to map actions against:

  • Compliance is a Given
  • Fairly Treated
  • Risk Aware
  • Feel Included
  • Desire to Learn
  • Free to Innovate
  • Able to Report.

From 2012 onwards, following feedback gathered in focus groups by an external body, a number of key workstreams instigated by the Thameslink Programme team had a positive impact on its culture. Common issues that emerged during the initial focus groups included:

  • Working ‘safely’ but not according to the ‘rules’
  • Close calls (lack of feedback / blame / numbers game)
  • Fairness in relation to blame culture not consistently applied
  • Briefings (boring)
  • Relationships between Network Rail and Supplier Managers at some levels.

The main workstreams that were implemented, either through natural progression or to act on the information which came out of the focus groups, were:

Directors Steering Group & Managers Forum

Network Rail and Supplier Project Delivery Directors met on a monthly basis to share good practice, discuss top risks and drive the leadership of safety across the Programme.

Focus groups

Focus groups were already established throughout projects. However, in March 2014, a series of dedicated focus groups within the Thameslink Programme team, and subsequently suppliers too, enabled the safety culture to be benchmarked. Areas requiring extra focus were also identified.

Hi-Viz newspaper

Thameslink Programme introduced a bi-monthly newspaper in May 2013, aimed at communicating to the front line and office staff. The main idea was that it would be an informal method of sharing information with workers in a way they would be likely to read, during breaks. Breaches of lifesaving rules, fair culture, and general positive communication on health and safety messages were communicated. The newspaper ran for five years and feedback from readers was always positive.

Close Call reporting

The benefits of close call reporting in identifying underlying acts and conditions to accidents was recognised. Online systems were developed to make reporting and feedback easier, reducing the risk of accidents.

Significant Event process

As an extension of understanding close calls, a significant events process was implemented in June 2012. This helped to focus minds and development plans on accidents and incidents that were occurring where there had not necessarily been any injury, damage or loss but where there was the potential to significantly injure or damage someone or something. This was put in place to affect the behaviours of leaders, reducing RIDDOR injuries to people or those which caused major disruption to the rail network. This was then incorporated in the ‘Reporting and Investigation of Accidents and Incidents’ IMS procedure.

As part of this process the team also issued:

Heads up emails

Linked with the significant events process, heads up emails were introduced to communicate with the whole Programme including Directors of our Suppliers when a significant event had occurred. The aim being that the email would contain key facts and key considerations for the wider Programme to check and consider whilst an investigation was underway.

Lessons learnt one page communications

Also linked with the significant events process, one page lessons learnt were introduced in December 2012 to communicate the learning from the investigations into significant events where it was believed there was wider learning to share. The template of this was altered following feedback from the focus groups to address the learning and actions taken element of feedback.

Independent Review Panel

In line with the Network Rail approach to achieving a fair culture an Independent Investigation Review Panel was established during 2014 to review investigations, specifically the actions to be taken against individuals where an alleged breach of a Life Saving Rule(s) was investigated. This was communicated widely to staff and also addressed some of the concerns raised around ‘fairness’ in the focus group feedback.

Compliance checks

Compliance checks were introduced as an alternative to the old safety inspection regime. The project teams were responsible for undertaking compliance checks to assure themselves that the suppliers were undertaking their works as they planned. This approach meant that trust could be built up and supported stepping back when compliance was high or being more involved and helping improve compliance when it was low. This addressed some of the feedback from the focus groups around trusting suppliers to undertake their works.

Leading Safety Conversation training / promotion (Time2Talk)

A training and coaching programme was established in 2014 which utilised the already available training but which was tailored slightly to meet the requirements of the Thameslink Programme. This training was provided to all Network Rail staff, regardless of grade, to give them the knowledge and skills to help them have the better conversations both within the office environment and when out on a construction site. This took the concept of close call reporting to a deeper level. Individuals were encouraged to have open and searching conversations, finding areas of improvement and agreeing actions to address these.


The Network Rail HQ SLCC team developed a Safety Culture Maturity model. Thameslink Programme utilised the model to understand the status of maturity, and then to subsequently measure the step change as it occurred.

Measuring Health & Safety improvement

The Fatality Weighted Index (FWI) is an industry measurement that was used to monitor safety performance. Injuries that are of a significant nature are weighted higher, providing a gauge of safety performance that can be measured. As can be seen from the graph below, a significant increase in safety performance was achieved in Key Output 2 (2012 onwards).

Related Case Studies

10 Years of Thameslink Programme Safety Performance

This report has been written to highlight the journey the Thameslink Programme has been on with regards to health & safety.

Safety Collaboration: London Bridge Station

Reviewing the collaborative aspects of safety planning, management and delivery of the Thameslink London Bridge Area Partnership works.

Time2Talk: Health & Safety Assurance

Network Rail first introduced Safety Conversations as a way of encouraging managers to engage with their workforce about Health & Safety. Time2Talk built on this strategy for Thameslink Programme.

Time2Focus: Health & Safety Assurance

Once Time2Focus was introduced, Time2Talk engagement levels increased significantly. This case study looks at moving to a risk-based Health & Safety approach.

Safety, Health & Wellbeing: Bermondsey Dive Under

The works at Bermondsey Dive Under (BDU) required the execution of a major civil engineering project near the operational railway.

Logistics Planning: London Bridge Station

Overcoming the logistics planning challenges during the redevelopment of London Bridge station

Point of work risk assessments at London Bridge

To work safely, construction teams have to be fully briefed, especially if something has changed. Here's how that process was managed at London Bridge.