Marjolijn Vosmer (35) is training advisor at Strukton Rail. She is closely involved in the Winter School for Strukton Rail employees.

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Marjolijn would like to tell you more about the annual Winterschool

In winter - and I mean the period between January and March - there's less work to do on the rail. So the first quarter is an ideal time for training sessions and courses. A few years ago, we at Strukton Rail set up the Winter School - a fictional school with training courses, developed and implemented by colleagues for colleagues.

Are you safe?

The training sessions focus on various safety and health topics. The programme content is different every year. That depends, for example, on what re-certifications are required. We also look at incidents that have taken place and we include the results of the periodical medical examination and the employee satisfaction survey. During the Winter School, a refresher Lifesaving First Aid takes place. And the training 'Are you safe?': a behavioural training about safety awareness and acting safely. After the training, participants take the Safety and Access to the Rail (VTOS) test. Everyone must pass this test before they can work on the rail.

Imaginary roof edge

This year, there was the training Working above ground level & Fall Protection, for example. The participants were given new fall protection sets and instructions for using them. They also practised using a harness, a positioning line and an arrest block, in a signal post and on an imaginary roof edge. Safety and risk assessment were central to the training. Because it's obviously vital to learn to assess and control the risks. And what's more: what to do if things do go wrong. Imagine that you fall and you're hanging in your harness - it's then important that you can call in help.

"For us it's important that employees reach their retirement in good health and also remain fit and in good health afterwards"

A demo of fall protection


As we said, health is a recurring subject in the Winter School. For us it's important that employees reach their retirement in good health and also stay fit and in good health afterwards. In that respect, the training about health and sustainable deployability was very useful. What challenges do you face as you get older and what can you influence yourself? What can you do yourself to stay fit and healthy? Subjects like smoking, alcohol, diet, sleep and exercise were all addressed.

36 pages

A training course sometimes consisted of more than just the training day itself. A couple of training sessions were preceded by an e-learning. At home or at the office, colleagues were asked to do a short online course so that they were well prepared for the training. For the Return Current, Cutting & Pull Systems training, it was important that the participants read a user manual prior to the training, for example, so that the day itself could be spent assembling and dismantling pull systems. A 36-page manual is rather dull fodder, so we incorporated it into an interactive e-learning. That proved a good solution.

"The trainers are involved in the content from beginning to end and they do that alongside their normal job"

Alongside their job

The unique thing about the Winter School is that the training sessions are given by colleagues who work on the rail themselves. They know the situations from practice and know what incidents have taken place. You might call it custom work. For that reason, the training sessions fit in seamlessly with daily work and are much more relevant. The colleagues who take part in the training very much appreciate this approach, according to the evaluations. The trainers are involved in the content from beginning to end and they do that alongside their normal job. For me, that's very special and it makes the Winter School very unique.

Over 1,000 participants

We specifically described the target groups for the training sessions this year, so that everyone who took part in the training really benefited. That was something we learned from the evaluation of the last Winter School, after which colleagues said that some training sessions weren't relevant to their job. 

This year, the Working above ground level & Fall protection training, for example, was intended for employees who work above ground level, their managers and the planners who are involved in working above ground level. There were 536 people in total. Some colleagues did one training session, while others did four or five, depending on their job and the certifications they needed. Overall, over 1,000 colleagues went back to school last winter. They were all well prepared for a new year on the railway.

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