Tuesday 22 February 2011

Seminar on safety in the rail system – the human factor (Paris, 18-19 May 2011)

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A two-day seminar on safety in the rail system - the human factor will be held in Paris on 18-19 May.

Day 1: how the human sciences can help control railway risk.

This will be a “Safety” seminar and will not specifically target “human factors” specialists. The latter are welcome and may find the day useful, but it is designed for railway safety managers and experts.

The target audience for this seminar is railway safety managers and experts: the seminar will address what is acknowledged to be both the most vital aspect of the rail system (involved in 80 % or more of all accidents) and yet the least well understood, namely the contribution of human elements and the impact of organisational arrangements.

The seminar is aimed at experts working in international organisations (CER, EIM, UIC, ERA, etc.) which deal with safety issues.

The seminar is aimed at safety experts whose work at their railways requires them to consider human, organisational and social factors in performing analyses and assessments and in developing their professional opinions.

It is aimed at those managers who must assess safety performance, decide if a safety level or a change is acceptable, decide on actions to remedy shortcomings or improve organisational arrangements, etc., and for whom human and organisational factors are of high importance in ensuring safety.

Its main goal is to:

  • provide a general overview of the available and practically-applicable knowledge,
  • illustrate using examples from specific cases,
  • make the link between the ideas presented and railway safety (though the original examples will mainly be taken from other at-risk sectors),
  • provide a basis and sources of reference for further research,
  • note the limits of such approaches’ validity or relevance.

No time will be spent telling you why “human factors” are very important. Rather, we will come to the point directly: in what ways are we presently able to apply knowledge from the human and social sciences in safety management?

Nor will any time be spent on the scientific fundamentals: the seminar will address the “application” level directly.

The first part will place HOSF (Human, Organisational and Social Factors) in the context of railway safety:

  • development of concepts and lessons learned from accidents in the transport, chemical, energy, space and military sectors,
  • the story of applying a HOSF approach at an incumbent rail operator and the highs and lows of doing so.

The second part will examine the railways’ practical implementation of findings from recent research and experience in the context of understanding the relationships between individuals, organisational arrangements and safety, and will explore the potential ways that risk can be controlled (often at little cost).

The third part will be dedicated to a discussion between participants of the topics emerging from this state-of-the-art:

  • what is immediately and easily applicable,
  • what is immediately applicable but requires specific skills and/or time,
  • what is defined and generally applicable but still requires road-testing and refining,
  • what requires research that we (railway operators) can realistically perform.

Day 2: results of work by the UIC Safety Unit in the sphere of “Human, Organisational and Social factors”

UIC members have access to a valuable source of competence in those subjects classified under “Organisational, Human and Social Factors” within the UIC Safety Unit, which is part of the “Fundamental Values” department.

Via the Safety Platform, members have capitalised on this competence – relatively recent at UIC – over the last two years in order to achieve the following:

  • a study on local management checks,

Benchmarking rail companies’ practice concerning the checks conducted by initial line managers on operators’ work from a safety point of view. Recommendations to improve these checks.

  • a study on psychologists’ contribution to railway operating safety,

Benchmarking the contributions of psychologists to railway operating safety amongst a sample of a few European operators.

  • a project on the organisational and human aspects of safety at border crossings,

Identification and analysis of risks to railway operating safety arising due to operators’ consecutive or simultaneous use of: technical systems, procedures, languages, and varying organisational and management arrangements. Recommendations to control these risks.

  • a guide on managing emotionally-distressing events and preventing post-traumatic stress.

Explanation of the phenomena which occur when individuals are faced with emotionally-distressing events (serious accidents, assault, etc.). Understanding the potential consequences and employers’ responsibilities.

For more information please contact Virginie Papillault: papillault@uic.org

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