What does safety mean to you?

That was the first question that everyone was asked during the first sector-wide suppliers' afternoon in the rail sector in the Netherlands at railAlert in Amersfoort on 23 October. A question that we all answered very openly.

A sector-wide suppliers' afternoon? Yes! Because safety on the rail concerns us all. Furthermore, it's more efficient for the suppliers to attend a supplier's meeting once instead of going to four different meetings on four occasions. Those invited were capacity suppliers for rail work relating to track, signs and overhead line. Organisers were the rail companies BAM Infra Rail, Dura Vermeer, Strukton Rail and VolkerRail.

The first question was not the only one that addressed safety. The entire day was about safety, with the underlying themes being sharing and talking openly about incidents within the sector and asking ourselves how we in the sector will jointly establish and further develop Health and Safety awareness.

The first theme we chose was a proactive attitude: talk to each other, be prepared to be held to account and report issues.

It's good to hear that safety goes before turnover for supplier too, and that safety not only applies in business but also at home. Rail contractors also produced good ideas. For example, it became clear that the organising companies do not work uniformly, that there is a need for a central Health, Safety and Environmental policy and a joint reporting centre in the sector for unsafe situations and near-incidents and that there is often insufficient or no feedback on reports. Due to the 'relationship of authority' (contractor versus client / employee versus manager), it is often difficult to hold each other to account. The suppliers indicated that they need support to improve in the field of 'holding to account', 'being held to account' and 'reporting'. 

So clear points for improvement.

On 13 November, the organising rail companies will evaluate the suppliers' day. They will then also formulate answers to the questions which emerged during the day and decide on follow-up actions. Of course, feedback will be given to the suppliers.

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