In a world where tradition often takes precedence over innovation, challenging the status quo can seem like a herculean task. In the railway industry, this challenge is particularly amplified due to deeply ingrained operational and safety processes that have seen little change over the years. However, at Keolis Amey Docklands, we decided to take on this challenge head-on, choosing to embrace a new perspective – Safety 2 and Restorative Justice – in order to effect meaningful change in our industry.
The Initial Challenge
My initial entry into the railway industry was driven by the realization that few had dared to venture outside traditional methodologies. A pattern was noticeable where railway professionals transitioned between different railway businesses but seldom incorporated ideas from other sectors. The traditional approach, while effective to an extent, seemed to have created a certain level of stagnation within the industry. The goal was clear – to inject fresh ideas and drive progression.
The New Approach
Our new approach, inspired by Safety 2 and Restorative Justice, aims to deviate from the blame and punishment mindset, replacing it with one that focuses on positive outcomes, fairness, and trust-building. Unlike traditional safety approaches that utilize a carrot and stick philosophy, Safety 2 emphasizes understanding why things go right and using that knowledge to replicate success.
In this new paradigm, trust is the key. As improbability suggests, “the currency of safety is information.” By fostering trust within the organization, we increase the flow of this currency, enhancing communication, and consequently, safety. We also empower our employees, acknowledging that they are the real experts with invaluable insights drawn from their day-to-day tasks. By actively involving them in the development of safety processes, we ensure a more comprehensive and practical approach.
Implementing the Change
The challenge was twofold. First, there was a need to ensure that we weren’t discarding valuable traditional safety practices in favor of the new ones. We recognized that Safety 1 and Safety 2 are not mutually exclusive but rather complement each other. Together, they can extend the safety toolbox, allowing us to draw on the best aspects of both approaches.
The second challenge was about dealing with the resistance that inevitably comes with change. The key was to introduce these new concepts gently, understanding that we were questioning practices that professionals had followed for most of their careers. This required patience and the ability to articulate the benefits of a just culture and restorative justice, and how they could be integrated into a learning review process.
The new process emphasizes learning from incidents instead of assigning blame. It shifts the focus from investigating root causes to understanding the human elements involved in incidents. The objective is to open up channels of learning rather than shutting them down with punitive measures.
While our journey has just begun, the path we’ve embarked on is already showing promise. By striking a balance between old and new, we’re setting a new standard in the railway industry – one that prioritizes safety, learning, and above all, the well-being of our people. And that, we believe, is the track to true success.
At Keolis Amey Docklands, our journey of integrating Safety 2 and Restorative Justice embodies our commitment to pushing boundaries, building trust, and emphasizing safety and learning in our workplaces. We respect the value of traditional safety practices while continuously seeking innovative, people-centric approaches. This transformative journey, while challenging, is a testament to our belief in constant evolution, open communication, and just culture. We hope our story inspires others in our industry and beyond to reassess the status quo, daring to envision and create safer, more just workplaces that truly empower their people.