Agency staff a ‘threat to rail’s safety culture’

Agency staff a ‘threat to rail’s safety culture’

Wed 6 May 2015

A major contractor to Network Rail is urging it to focus on highly trained rail-specific directly employed professionals, not agency staff, to meet its needs. Shaun Thompson, rail director at Griffiths, says in an article for RTM: “Depending on agency staff will not deliver the super-high safety culture that the industry is demanding. It is not a sustainable way of employing people long-term, nor does it offer best value for money. “This is a strategic issue not just for Network Rail but the industry as a whole. Simply relying on existing resource levels backed up by agency labour – much of it itinerant and shunted around to manage the peaks – will not help meet the record levels of investment planned over the next five years and beyond.” He spoke of a “resource crisis in the rail industry”, and suggested that contractors with the competences demanded by the rail sector are in short supply. He said: “It’s not just rail. The same issue is current in the general construction sector. Six years of hard economic squeeze have shorn the construction industry of many gifted professionals. Project directors, design managers and engineers have migrated to other industries. Some have emigrated altogether. It’s reported that many quantity surveyors are now fleecing sheep in Australia!” He added: “Agency people are generally dedicated individuals, and it’s clear that the growth in agency labour is set to continue. But what rail clients really want are highly trained rail-specific directly employed professionals. “For our own part at Griffiths, in the past two years we’ve trained and mentored 120 staff from our general civils business to be competent operatives for Network Rail. We can work with Network Rail to develop balanced programmes of work to keep our resources gainfully employed.” Thompson’s full article is available in the April/May 2015 edition of RTM, which is available to read for free on the new RTM app. Search ‘RTM Magazine’ on the Appstore / Google Play.

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