Consult with your team

To start developing a safety case you need to consult with your team members, staff, volunteers etc. about safety in the organisation. Then as you have these discussions you’ll start to identify the key areas where safety risks exist and be able to consider the measures you could take to ensure those risks don’t develop into an accident or incident.

Some good questions to initiate this discussion have been provided below:

  • What do we want to do?
  • What is our safety policy?
  • What are our goals to achieve that policy?
  • What risks might stop us meeting those goals?
  • How could we prevent them?
  • How will we know when we’ve got it right?
  • What resources will we need and how will we maintain them?
  • How will we know our safety controls are working?
  • How will we fix problems and get better?

Ideally, writing the safety case won’t require you to do anything more than you have already done to be a safe organisation. It’s just about documenting the ‘argument’ that everyone will continue to be safe while performing their daily duties.

Start to form your safety argument

A safety case makes clear your commitment to safety and provides all the details required to demonstrate that you’re meeting that commitment and will continue to do so. Because of this it can be said to contain a safety ‘argument’, as it provides the evidence that all your rail activities can and are being performed safely.

A key element to ensure your organisation’s safety case is written the right way is to focus on what you want to achieve from your safety activities and why. This reasoning should assure anyone reading the document that you can achieve your goals and that they will work to keep people safe.

Keep talking to the right people

Developing a good safety case will take time. It will also take time for it to be approved (or for a variation to be approved), so if you want to start your activities by a given date, you need to make sure you start early.

During its development, you will probably identify other useful people, safety options that you need to research, risks you need to understand better, and further business planning and decisions that need to be made.

Getting everyone on board with your safety case is critical, especially these key roles:

  1. The governance of your organisation
    Whether you have a single owner, a committee or a board, the safety case is their document. They are presenting it to Waka Kotahi and they need to be the driving force behind it, set the goals, take accountability for the commitments, and make sure it remains relevant.
  2. The management team
    Safety is a fundamental part of the whole operation, so you need the buy-in of the management team to make sure it works. Managers will usually be responsible for putting safety measures in place, monitoring them and deciding what to do when things don’t work.
  3. The safety team
    Although safety is everyone’s responsibility, it usually helps to have a collection of people who can take the lead to talk to their colleagues about safety needs, provide advice to management, and share information about risks and safety measures.
  4. Other organisations
    Nearly all railway organisations will work with other rail organisations. Whoever they are and regardless of whether they have a licence, if you work with them you’ll need to talk to them about your safety case. Their activities affect you and your activities affect them.

For smaller operators where one person may hold a variety of roles within the organisation, it’s important to ensure that a wide range of people are involved and can contribute using their knowledge and experience and that ownership of the safety case is established.

If you use a contractor to prepare your safety case, remember that it’s your licence, your responsibility and your liability if things go wrong, so ensure you stay closely involved in the process.

Focus on your safety goals

As well as complying with Section 30 of the Railways Act, a good safety case will describe what you seek to achieve and why (your goals), rather than go into detail about the actions you will be taking. A good check to see if you’re doing this is to ensure each aspect of the safety case:

  • is able to be tested  - you can prove you’ve accomplished it
  • is relevant – it’s clear how achieving it relates to your safety goals
  • contains accountability – it’s clear which role in the organisation takes ownership for achieving it.

This commits the organisation to have a safety system in place that can demonstrate the detail around each of your organisation’s goals in support of your safety case.