Just Culture in Railways

Just Culture in Railways

European Union Railway Agency

The European Union Agency for Railways (ERA) is mandated to issue single safety certificates and vehicle (type) authorisations valid in multiple European countries and to ensure an interoperable European Rail Traffic Management System, in the development and implementation of the Single European Railway Area.

ERA Mission

  • Make the railway system work better for society
  • Contribute to the effective functioning of a Single European Railway Area without frontiers.

ERA Vision

The Agency, as a respected authority, will be the engine for change driving the Single European Railway Area. ERA promotes a harmonised approach to railway safety, seeks to improve accessibility and use of railway system information, act as the European Authority under the 4th Railway Package issuing vehicle (type) authorisations and single safety certificates, while improving the competitive position of the railway sector.

Safety Culture and Just Culture in Railway

Safety is a main driver of the efficiency and reliability of railway services, it is the essential precondition for successful rail business in Europe – and a positive safety culture is vital for improving rail safety. In many other sectors of high risk transport and industry, a positive safety culture already has improved safety records, encouraged pro-active thinking, responsible behaviour, and staff engagement Safety should not be compromised when different business goals conflict. ERA’s vision statements, targets and indicators, resource allocation, and all aspects of daily operations support this. Good safety management is always risk based.

In an operational railway environment, individuals, despite their training, expertise, experience, abilities, and good will, may be faced with situations where the limits of human performance combined with unwanted and unpredictable systemic influences may lead to an undesirable outcome. Investigation and analysis of occurrences should focus first on system performance, the conditions and factors that influence the work practice rather than on apportioning blame or individual responsibility. This approach is to be followed all times except in cases of gross negligence, wilful violations and destructive acts which seriously compromise the level of railway safety.

By newly introducing the words “culture” and “trust” as features of good rail safety management, European legislators have recognized the value of a positive safety culture for the European railway sector. To bring this alive, the European Union Agency for Railways, in collaboration with the European Commission, organised a first European Rail Safety Summit on 10-12 April 2018 in Dubrovnik. At this event were brought together renowned speakers from different sectors to share experience on all aspects of safety culture, and also introducing and presenting the Just Culture concept.

Just Culture is about creating a workable balance between Safety and Sanctions through an important message: Stay away from professionals that make an honest mistake, but someone who consciously takes an irresponsible risk should be sanctioned. Achieving this is easier said than done, a fate it shares with most other types of specialised cultures.

ERA will promote safety, reporting and just culture principles amongst management and employees and with other parties, including its contractors, suppliers, and service providers and it will actively foster mutual respect, support and cooperation to build trust across the organisations and create a shared understanding of workplace reality.

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