Wednesday, 13th April – Risk Assessment Briefings

CAG Member Tim Winstanley kindly took time out to compile the following report on a GWSR  “1 hour General Risk Assessment briefing” that he attended with two of his CAG colleagues. The content represents Tim’s “take” on the briefing, but probably represents the pragmatic view that most volunteers would share.


Dear Bill,


Earlier today 3 members of the CAG attended a GWR Health and Safety brief at Toddington – albeit, in my case, slightly reluctantly (I was reminded of the quote about ‘creeping like a snail to school’).  I was almost balked by the first hurdle since the station gate refused to open (was this a sign?) but Neil Carr – our friendly neighbourhood Ops Manager – was there to open it personally  for me.  There were 6 trainees plus 2 ‘trainers’, GWR had kindly provided the Board Room for the brief and, for the record, it was a very useful hour.

Since you don’t want the whole presentation, how would one sum up the advice and guidance without sounding patronising!?

In no particular order I can draw out 3 main points, none of which will, I suspect, come as any great surprise:

–          First, common sense applies.  Nothing in the presentations suggested that we (CAG) should be overly concerned about our day-to-day practices though it certainly doesn’t do to be complacent (see below).

–          My second conclusion is the reminder that Health and Safety is the responsibility of all – volunteers very much included – but that it need not be bureaucratic or burdensome.  Given that we largely manage ourselves, are generally experienced and have a wealth of common sense, I think we can draw our own conclusions about where we need to consider hazards, assess risks and adjust our actions accordingly.   All in accordance with the overall guidance laid down by the railway, of course.

–          Third, our responsibility to keep the paying public safe is most significant but closely followed by the need to make sure we ourselves not exposed to unreasonable risk.

So much, so obvious I hear you cry!  What about an example?  As the blog (Saturday 9 April) indicates Mick and I were engaged in our usual activity of digging holes and filling them in again.  We were quite conscientious about keeping passengers away from the hole and well aware that angle grinding can be both noisy and dusty – so restrained ourselves until we had a window between services with virtually nobody on the platform.  So far so good.  After that we could perhaps have done a little better and to name but 3 sins of omission/commission: I didn’t wear any gloves when shifting the paving slabs, didn’t wear a mask when angle grinding was taking place and wasn’t especially careful when we were heaving a 60+kg (?) sack of subsoil over a  low wall.  No accidents occurred and, since I don’t do these activities all day or every day, I don’t think I was exposed to any undue risk.  So, on reflection, ‘satisfactory but could do better’ –  as my school reports probably should have said!

Most of the time I don’t think we need to carry out too many formal risk assessments to do our normal Saturday/Monday tasks – just being sensible, planning ahead a bit and not ‘managing without’ (typically because yours truly can’t be bothered walking back up the slope yet again back to the tool stores).  Occasionally, on large projects such as wiring the Platform 2 lights, we do have a proper project plan – including the appropriate risk assessment(s) for all the work involved.

However, for myself, I could certainly be a bit more careful – and sensibly Health & Safety conscious – without detriment to enjoying a Saturday morning’s work.

For the record I can certainly recommend doing the one hour brief provided by the GWR – it’s always useful to be reminded about these things.




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