Network Rail - Work at Heights

Head Office Circular NP/260/20(rev)
Our Ref: HSR/2/6
23rd October 2020

Dear Colleague


Further to Head Office Circular NP/150/18, 9th August 2018, discussions with the company in this regard have continued over a protracted period. (Please see also Head Office Circular NP/38/20, 2nd March 2020). The company is now proposing to merge the work of the Telecoms and S&T Work at Heights groups and explains its position thus:

It would appear there are two separate groups engaged with the RMT working towards finding a resolution to this matter. The first group being led by Martin Frobisher is looking at this specifically from a Telecoms perspective, and following a previous letter met with Mick Lynch and the Safety and IR representatives on the 15th April. This group agreed the most appropriate next steps would be to undertake a series of attended simulations at a cross-section of climbing locations to establish the appropriate number of personnel required to ensure the safety and well-being of staff who are required to climb. As this simulation was to involve the emergency services you can probably appreciate the current COVID situation has inhibited our ability to arrange the simulations in a timely manner.

The second issue raised in maintenance council relates to the appropriate number of personnel on site for climbing specifically for S&T climbers. There have been a number of discussions over a protracted period with no agreed way forward being found. As the S&T issue also relates to safety, on reflection, it is unsurprising the maintenance group have been unable to achieve a satisfactory resolution to the issue.

My proposal is the S&T issue should be subsumed into the group being led by Martin, where the group, currently comprising both Safety and Industrial representatives should work towards a resolution to appropriate team sizing when climbing based on factual evidence gained from the simulation activities.

On considering this proposal the National Executive Committee, at its meeting on 20th October, noted and adopted the following report of its Health and Safety Sub-committee:

We note the letter from Network Rail. The General Secretary is instructed to write to Network Rail accepting its proposal to merge the two groups. The General Secretary is further instructed to seek an updated report from the Regional Organiser.

Any updates to be placed before this NEC.

Branches and Regional Councils to be advised.

Further to this, the following report was received from a National Maintenance Council representative:

This decision is very worrying and it goes against all previous discussions that we've had with Network Rail. Network Rail want to merge these two groups so that they can undermine the progress that has been made in the S&T working at height groups. We have already built a strong safety and industrial case for a minimum of 3 S&T staff carrying working at height. This decision allows Network Rail to revisit this and will undermine everything we have done. Would it be possible for these concerns to be put to the NEC so that they can revisit this as a matter of urgency? I'm quite confident that the other National NR Reps who have been involved will be of the same opinion.

On considering this proposal the National Executive Committee, at its meeting on 22nd October, agreed as follows:

We note the updated report from National Maintenance Council and instruct the General
Secretary to arrange a meeting for the Lead Officer to discuss with Network Rail working
groups sub meetings as a whole and to provide this NEC with a updated report.

Branches and Regional Councils to be advised.

Members to be advised.

I am acting in accordance with these instructions and will keep you informed of developments.

Yours sincerely

Mick Cash
General Secretary