A story from last year over staff fatigue at Caledonian Sleeper (a Scottish long-haul passenger train line), highlighted to us the need to go beyond minimum compliance when it comes to managing operational risks, delivering good customer service, and looking after staff.
A report by Dr Paul Jackson concluded that Caledonian complied with health and safety laws but its “approach to fatigue management could be improved” and recommended a “change in culture”.
ISS CEO Dr Adam Fletcher emphasised that this story reiterated his belief that rules and regulations can only do so much. “Being compliant with laws is critical and necessary, but these sorts of situations reinforce that you’ve got to go beyond compliance to actually properly identify and manage risks,” he said.
The report was commissioned after members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) to staged multiple 48-hour walkouts, which forced the cancellation of some services. Staff voted to take action after operator Serco refused to allow them to use spare cabins for rest breaks during shifts which can last more than 16 hours.
The report said staff breaks should be extended beyond one hour on longer routes, rest areas improved and the working of multiple nights on end be reduced.
Dr Jackson highlighted faults with the new Sleeper fleet as a major cause of extra staff stress, especially when they had to find alternative cabins for arriving passengers at short notice. "It was clear that the extra workload arising from factors outside crews’ control causes unnecessary stress. A poor start to a long night duty,” he said.
“The other point here is that for service staff, we actually want them to give good service, we actually want the customers to be happy – and one of the things we know is very sensitive to sleep loss is mood. So, if it’s really important to have high quality customer experiences, then it’s really important to go beyond the minimum compliance of the laws. If you want someone to be really fresh, alert, friendly, sensitive to people’s needs, then they’re going to need proper rest,” Adam says.
The union said: “It shows fatigue has been an issue for years but has been allowed to fester, staff are reluctant to report fatigue for fear of victimisation, and train faults are rife, which adds to the stress.
Caledonian Sleeper managing director Ryan Flaherty said: “When some of our employees raised concerns about fatigue, we brought in an independent specialist to conduct a risk assessment on our services. His report clearly concludes that not only is Caledonian Sleeper operating within all regulations."
Nevertheless, at the end of the day, “being compliant with laws does not make something safe,” Adam says.
You can find out more about this story here.