Maritime & Transport / Rail

Rail Safety 2012 focuses on the human element of safety

The 12th Annual RISSB Rail Safety Conference was held on March 28th and 29th in Sydney which saw more than 140 representatives from across the rail industry – both in Australia and further abroad – come together to explore the “weak links in rail safety” with a particular focus on the human element of safety.

We would like to thank everyone who attended for contributing to another successful event.

Traditionally, Rail Safety strives to improve safety processes in the rail industry by drawing from best practice in other industries and systems, and this year was no different. The event kicked off with some interesting and passionate presentations from Lincoln Eldridge from SAFEmap international who revealed the seven deadly delusions of accident-prone companies which were the delusion of (risk) control, compliance, consistency, human error, predictability, statistical trends towards zero, invulnerability. Lincoln’s vision moving forward is for safety-critical industry to get to a point where risk-taking is harnessed rather than vilified, so employees are able to develop more innovative and therefore valuable ways of working.

Professor Sidney Dekker then gave a dynamic and highly entertaining presentation on Just Culture– with the overwhelming feedback from delegates that he challenged the norm and opened their eyes to possibility of doing things differently within their organisation.


Delegates were also privy to the inner workings of the aviation sector as well as the Royal Australian Navy with Professor Patrick Murray from Griffith Aviation and Rear Admiral Michael Uzzell, Head Navy Engineering, Royal Australian Navy as well as some international rail case studies from Japan and Canada.

As always – at the end of day one – delegates were able to unwind and network after a day in the conference room at the annual Rail Safety Dinner, sponsored by Laing O’Rourke. This year’s dinner coincided with the launch of the TrackSAFE Foundation which aims to develop a cohesive approach to reduce suicide, level crossing, and trespass incidents on the rail network. Dinner guests were privileged to view a screening of the video which will be used in the foundation’s public awareness campaign and also hear from the foundation patron The Hon. Tim Fischer.

Day two saw the CEO panel discussion deliver some interesting insights into the weakest links in rail safety from the perspectives of a distinguished speaking panel made up of Rob Barnett from V/Line, Bryan Nye from the ARA, Peter Doggett DPTI South Australia, Paul Kyte from Downer, Damien White from TasRAIL and Jim Quinn from KiwiRail. Some of the weak links brought to the attention of delegates were a reluctance to share information and the lack of a common database to facilitate this, the potential for complacency of supervisor level employees that may have 30+ years in the industry, fatigue management and human breakdowns in processes and procedures.

One of the event highlights was without doubt an address by Australian Moto GP legend Mick Doohan who shared some very entertaining stories and, at times, gory details of the injuries he sustained over his years at the top of his sport. One of the most memorable anecdotes was from the Dutch MotoGP Championships in 1992 – At the top of his game, Mick came off his bike during qualifying, his bike landing on top of him, crushing his leg into the asphalt. To avoid having his broken leg amputated, Mick’s legs were sewn together in an attempt to breathe some life back into his broken leg.

The overriding message Mick shared was not to lose focus on the goal (safety or otherwise) – that the times when things went wrong and he ultimately crashed was when he was “taking it easy” or switched off mentally, even momentarily; a point that was not lost on the delegates given the day and a half of discussions leading up to that point focused on the human element of safety.

RISSB extends its thanks to those who attended the Rail Safety Conference.  There is no doubt that the event is becoming more popular as the years progress; the calibre of speakers now volunteering to speak at the conference is testament to this.

Planning for the 2013 Safety Workshop and Rail Safety Conference will commence shortly.  If you would like to keep updated on the developments for rail Safety 2013, or any other RISSB activity, please take a minute to subscribe to RISSB’s communications at http://www.rissb.com.au/site/subscribe.php. RISSB would welcome suggestions on the themes upcoming events.

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