Network Rail is accountable for the safe running, maintenance and development of Britain’s rail tracks, signaling, bridges, tunnels, level crossings, viaducts and 19 key stations.

The company is fully committed to providing a safe, reliable and efficient railway and since 2002 has reduced rail delay minutes from 14.72 million per year down to 7.4 million, nearly a 50% reduction.

Despite this track record Network Rail cannot afford to rest on its laurels. As the demand for railway services continues to rise, so do the risks associated with health & safety management. Today more people travel by rail than at any point since the 1920s (when the rail network was around twice its current size) and every year 1.3 billion journeys are made on Britain’s railways and 100 million tonnes of freight are transported by rail to ports, factories and shops. Still, over the next 30 years passenger demand for rail will more than double and freight demand is expected to rise by 140%.

To cope with this demand and to evolve the rail infrastructure in the same successful way as previously, Network Rail must ensure every single aspect of their business is the best it can be – both in terms of operational excellence and robust health & safety management.

In 2007, Network Rail approached Alcumus looking for a straight forward and effective system to help them improve their COSHH management (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health). Under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002, employers are required by law to demonstrate that they have measures in place to either prevent or reduce their workers’ exposure to substances that are hazardous to their health.

Pete Worrall is the Stores Coordinator for Network Rail. He explains why Alcumus was chosen as the preferred partner to assist the business with its COSHH requirements. Pete said: “We had heard very good reports about the Sypol CMS management system and were eager to see how it could be applied to our business. We sat down with the Alcumus team who really listened to the challenges facing our business. After due consideration the team then came back with a solution that was appropriate for our organisation both in terms of operational functionality and flexibility as well as affordability.”

The driver for an improved COSHH risk management system evolved from a desire to eradicate duplicate and unnecessary paperwork and to collate all salient information, in particular its COSHH assessments, into one place.

Pete said: “Before employing Sypol CMS we used to have piles of COSHH risk assessment forms lying in a dusty corner so it was very difficult to find exactly what we needed at times. We work with a number of potentially hazardous materials and substances and have a duty of care to ensure that our people are protected at all times.

“Since implementing Alcumus’ Sypol CMS system it has been much easier to keep hazardous substances checked and under control. We are now confident that our existing COSHH assessments are up to date and have ready access to a team of experts to help us create new ones. We find Sypol CMS to be a very fluid system which is easy to use.

Furthermore all the crucial information we need on hazardous substances is available with the click of a button on a tablet or an iPhone. We are now app happy!”

Pete has seen a hugely positive reaction from the Network Rail staff towards the Sypol CMS system. They are very receptive to the system as they consider it to be an essential tool for protecting them against workplace risks.

“Our people love the simplicity of the system. The quicker and easier it is for them to find what they are looking for the better. The system is clear and easy to work with which is great.

Network Rail is proud of its COSHH safety record. The number of incidents involving hazardous substances since 2007 is five which means there is less than one incident a year.

Pete said: “I can count the number of incidents we’ve had since using the system on one hand. And even these were not major incidents, they were just minor things which were dealt with quite easily. It obviously took some time for the staff to get used to the new system but now it plays a critical part in our daily health & safety management.”

Network Rail continues to take an active role in the evolution of Sypol CMS having attended training courses and user workshops since 2007.

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