South Western Railway – Contingency Guards


Our Ref: HSR/2/1
Head Office Circular: NP/049/18
6th March 2018
To: The Secretary

Dear Colleague,


I am advised that our members continue to have concerns that South Western Railway are failing to run safe services during RMT’s continued industrial action.

We believe that the true level of incidents within the company is being covered up by management or simply not reported by staff. Because management take no action, front-line staff appear to be adopting the approach of why bother/what’s the point? We have written to ORR to demand an investigation into the current situation and we believe such an investigation will reveal a deliberate attempt by senior management to falsify their contingency staffs’ actions on strike days.

In the meantime, I am distributing the following advice specifically to RMT train driver and platform dispatch members at Southwestern Trains, but this advice is equally applicable to all RMT members, whatever their grade, duties or the industry they work in.

Reporting of incidents

In order for an employer to make their workplaces safe it is necessary for them to understand the complexity of the risk their undertaking generates and to reduce that level of risk to “as low as is reasonably practicable” (ALARP). One of the measures that is central to this understanding is the investigation of and collection of evidence about accidents, incidents, close calls and near miss reporting.

If employers do not know of accidents, incidents, close calls or near misses then the mitigation of the risks generated by those events may not be sufficient to prevent a similar occurrence and may in some circumstances lead to a worse outcome if the incident is repeated.

While there are no statutory duties to investigate all accidents and incidents there are legal duties to investigate Reportable Injuries, Disease and Dangerous Occurrence (RIDDOR), including a number of specific railway incidents such as train collisions with buffer stops or train derailment. In addition, HSE publish a guidance document ‘Investigating accidents and incidents, HSG245’. The first step in HSG245 includes gathering of information.

Frontline staff have a legal responsibility under the Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA) to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and for other people who may be affected by what they do or omit to do (Section 7). This means more than not doing things that are reckless or silly but more importantly involves an understanding of, and working in accordance with, workplace procedures, policies and rules so that they and others are not put at risk. RMT are alleging that Southwestern Trains are not complying with their duties but that failure must not and cannot get in the way of individual workers’ responsibility to report events, whether management do anything with that report or not.

Following safety policies, rules and regulations

As well as placing duties on employees HSWA also imposes duties on employers, including reducing risk to ALARP in regard of the health, safety and welfare of all employees including ensuring there are workplaces and systems of work that are safe. In the railway world that duty is covered by the railway rulebook, Railway Group Standards and company standards, policies and procedures.

Under Section 7 of HSWA individual workers are therefore under a duty to comply with those rules, regulations and standards and further if they are asked to do anything, by anyone that is outside or contrary to those standards, or they witness an incident, then they are under a duty to report it to management.

If you observe an incident of this kind and you report it to management and management then fail to investigate the incident, then there are a number of options open to you. RMT would strongly recommend you take a copy of your report and pass it to your local RMT representative (industrial or health and safety). You may also wish to report your concern to CIRAS – the industry confidential advice service at or by phone on:
0800 4 101 101.

Any information provided to the RMT will be reported to the ORR.

Remember your employer can only be held to account for their safety failings if they have been told about it. If you see an unsafe act, or an unsafe condition or you are asked to do something that is not in line with your capabilities you must report it.

See it; report it; sorted.

Please make the contents of this circular available to all appropriate members.

Yours sincerely
Mick Cash
General Secretary