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Project title

The application of leading and lagging indicators to the rail industry (measuring safety performance) (T852)

  • Project number:

  • Topic:

    Safety Policy and Risk Management
  • Status:


Project Summary

Recent work has highlighted a need for the effective deployment of both proactive and reactive indicators in managing safety. This research explores the development, application, and potential benefits of their use in the railway.

Project Abstract

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The railway industry relies heavily on failure and incident data to monitor safety performance. The consequence of this approach is that improvements or changes are only determined after something has gone wrong. A more proactive approach is to monitor whether critical risk controls are in place and working effectively. Both proactive and reactive measures, known as activity and outcome safety performance indicators (SPIs), should be integrated into an organisation’s safety management system to provide assurance. Recommendation seven of the Baker Report into the Texas City oil refinery accident of 2005 increased the focus on applying the theoretical concepts of SPIs. Guidance documents aimed at the process industries consider SPI concepts and a process for their development. However, at the outset of this research no formalised or consistent SPI process was identified in the rail industry. Therefore this research explored the use of both activity and outcome SPIs and has produced the guidance document Measuring Safety Performance explaining how to develop and manage SPIs in the rail industry. The initial stages of the guidance have been trialled with two passenger train operating companies. The potential benefits from implementing a more proactive SPI programme have been identified to include: better management and reduction of risk, greater confidence in safety performance and a reinforced positive safety culture. The research has also led to the identification of further activities (including continuation of the trials) that could be undertaken to enhance industry guidance on SPIs.

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