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Establishing a Safety Management System for Railways – Dynamic barrier handling in complex rail environments

How can rail organizations meet the current ERA requirements while maintaining an agile Safety Management System capable of adapting to future regulations?

Railway operations face numerous challenges that significantly affect passenger, employee, and environmental safety. These challenges encompass various factors such as aging infrastructure, human errors, railway crossings, signal failures, security concerns, and adverse weather conditions. Railway operators must navigate these factors to ensure safe operations. 

To assist railway operators in adhering to established safety procedures and best practices, the European Union Agency for Railways (ERA) has provided guidance on risk management through REGULATION (EU) No 402/2013, known as the Common Safety Method (CSM). The CSM outlines essential safety management principles, methodologies, and procedures that must be followed by railway infrastructure managers, railway undertakings, and other stakeholders within the railway sector. 

One key requirement of the CSM regulations is the establishment of a Safety Management System (SMS). The SMS serves as a structured framework, prioritizing safety and ensuring the implementation of necessary safety measures in railway systems' design, operation, and maintenance. 

How can rail organizations meet the current ERA requirements while maintaining an agile Safety Management System capable of adapting to future regulations? 

To address this challenge and establish a framework that not only meets ERA safety requirements but also lays the foundation for a proactive risk management system, a multi-phase approach is recommended. This approach allows organizations to gradually roll out safety initiatives and helps to secure the support of all potential stakeholders for the process: 

Synergi Life - dynamic barrier handling in complex rail environments

  1. Set targets and scope for the process: Begin by identifying key challenges in an initial workshop to grasp immediate needs and long-term objectives. Questions to consider include digitalizing the hazard log for more dynamic use in risk management and facilitating access to risk reports for internal stakeholders and external authorities. Define workflows tailored to your organization's needs. Identifying phase-one goals will help establish project requirements and potential future functionalities. 
  2. Conduct a safety readiness assessment: Engage in consultancy sessions with rail safety experts to assess the current state of safety operations and identify immediate risks that require attention. This step also helps establish best practice processes for maintaining safe operations. Possible areas of improvement may be detected in roles & responsibilities definition, competence management, automation of barrier handling and assessment of changes both in technical assets and at organizational level. This assessment can help to identify any gaps with regulatory compliance.   
  3. Implement a Safety Management Solution: Introduce a QHSE (Quality, Health, Safety, and Environment) tool that not only centralizes risk data but also supports the implementation of proposed processes across the organization. Ideally, this tool should facilitate risk and incident management and enable dynamic barrier management. Consider a phased rollout of the solution, beginning with the most impactful functionalities, and gradually incorporating modules like Quality Management, Cyber Security, or Inspection Management as needed. Including a mobile app for remote case reporting can boost engagement and reporting frequency. In this phase it’s important to determine the ultimate objective aligned with the QHSE maturity level of the organization. One also needs to determine the baseline for the QHSE tool integration to maximize the value for all rail safety stakeholders.  
  4. Follow-up and Evaluation: After successfully implementing the Safety Management Solution, evaluate its effectiveness and adoption. Assess whether all best practices have been incorporated and explore opportunities for adjustments or automation to enhance efficiency. After this assessment, the coverage of the full risk map can be determined, and any remaining risks can be linked between departments and functions within the stakeholder organization. Any required changes in the management system can be reflected in the QHSE tool, such as Synergi Life, to support further rollouts and act as a support system for change management. A QHSE system can also provide more control of the implementation of future innovations and technical or technological evolutions within their rail asset environment.   

By following this multi-phase approach, rail organizations can not only meet current safety requirements but also build a flexible Safety Management System capable of adapting to future regulatory changes while maintaining a strong focus on safety and risk management. 

Author: Jorge Aldegunde, Railway Global Technical Manager, DNV

9/17/2023 1:08:39 PM

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