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Engineers urged to be more open-minded

RAIL engineers need to give more consideration to safety issues outside the immediate boundaries of their work, it was heard at the ICE last week.

The interface between engineers and other professionals in the maintenance of track, signalling and power supply needed to be strengthened, said London Underground technical assurance engineer John Downes at the meeting - To What Extent are Elements of Railway Engineers' Work Safety Critical.

Downes said: 'The role of rail engineers needs to be seen more in the context of the overall system of safety. We need to open minds to what's outside our domain and work across those boundaries. We need to clarify how much risk is passed between disciplines and ensure that it is understood and spelt out in a mutually satisfactory form.' For example, engineers needed to be wary of giving high tech solutions to low tech operators.

London Underground infrastructure systems engineer Mike Gellately said engineers needed to monitor closely how their maintenance work interfaced with work to upgrade computerised signalling and train control. 'I think this is an area we have got to watch very carefully,' he said.

Clear communication was identified as a paramount skill for the engineer in a fast developing sector, Downes said: 'Communication should bepart of competency assessments,' he added.

Better communication was needed to establish who was responsible for delivering the system and how and when it was demonstrated, said Jubilee Line Extension project commissioning manager David Waboso.

Asked how engineers couldcombat a 'culture of complacency and familiarity', chair of the meeting, GTRM managing director Andy Savage, replied: 'Briefing, briefing, briefing. People have to know their job and need to be briefed time and again.'

Engineers should encourage their staff to tell them their concerns and to ask for help at the appropriate time.

Savage added: 'In several incidents, had the person asked for help earlier we would probably have had a better solution.' Stress counselling could also improve life for those working on repetitive jobs, it was stated.

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