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Getting the Right Culture to Make Safety Systems Work in a Complex Rail Industry

Nolan-McSweeney, Michelle; Ryan, Brendan; Cobb, Sue


Michelle Nolan-McSweeney

Sue Cobb


Network Rail is a large rail engineering company sitting within a complex industrial landscape. That said, Britain’s railways are the safest they have ever been. However, it is acknowledged that there is still room for improvement in safety and operational performance, and technological transformation is needed to meet the huge increase in passenger demand.

As the challenges have grown more complex Network Rail has sought to develop a high-performance culture, where people work collaboratively, strive for continuous improvement, and where everyone feels able to perform at the limit of their own potential. To achieve such ambitions two major change programmes have been developed to support the transformation of safety and operational performance in the maintenance part of the organisation.

Using in-depth interviews with 10 senior managers in the rail industry (involved with, or impacted by, the two major change programmes), it has been identified that there are several contemporary challenges. These relate to: the need for greater emphasis on participative initiatives that involve the frontline staff in decision making, so that changes are well designed and implemented; and the need to focus on the effective management of change. Possible solutions and best practices are included, outlining the shift in organisational culture needed for both leaders and employees alike.

It is also proposed that the study be extended to include surveys of frontline staff and supervisors to assess the change practices in Network Rail. Follow up interviews will also be undertaken with Senior Managers regarding the alignment with identified ‘best practice’.

Conference Name 20th Congress of the International Ergonomics Association (IEA 2018)
Conference Location Florence, Italy
Acceptance Date Aug 5, 2018
Publication Date Aug 5, 2018
Deposit Date Dec 10, 2018
Publisher Springer Verlag
Pages 489-503
Series Title Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing
Series Number 823
Series ISSN 2194-5365
Book Title IEA 2018: Proceedings of the 20th Congress of the International Ergonomics Association (IEA 2018) Volume VI: Transport Ergonomics and Human Factors (TEHF), Aerospace Human Factors and Ergonomics
ISBN 978-3-319-96073-9
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