Brexit, Safety and Risk Management in the Rail industry

Brexit, Safety and Risk Management in the Rail industry

By Walterlan Mendanha– MSc,FCIOB,Grad IOSH,MIIRSM


Taking into consideration the historic referendum that took place on June 23rd 2016 and the UK government giving notice under article 50 with the view of completing all Brexit negotiations by October 2019, I have made consideration regarding how this would affect safety and Risk in the Rail and Construction industry.

Pos- Brexit will not only will affect right of workers to a safe workplace, health and safety information, EU standards, technological regimentations and Management systems but will also have a major impact on the Construction and Rail industry.

Regulatory frameworks is based on health and safety protection of the public and workforce as well as the technological desire of improve transportation. UK rail sector account for over 226,000 jobs, with 124,000 divided between supply chain and maintenance, including specialized companies, manufactures, consultants, raw materials supply, notified bodies and certifications bodies.

Rail and Construction industries are at risk of losing 200,000 EU workers post Brexit, placing at risk maintenance and development projects with a possible reduction of 8% of general workforce post Brexit in the very first year.


Brexit, Safety and Risk Management in the Rail industry

Political factors

With the proposed changes in the European trading market and restriction of people movement between countries, the Minister of Transportation has expressed concerns in how this would affect Network Rail. Brexit results may take several years to be implemented and this could disrupt the Rail operations, subsequently affecting the quality of public transportation and a higher demand on the current government.

Although health and safety laws in the United Kingdom predate entry the European Market, successive implementations to the regulations have been made as a result of EU directives.  The majority of Rail components and standards, such as ISO 12856 -1 2014 ( plastic sleepers ), ISO / TS 14837 -1:2005 ( mechanical vibration) “ Ground – borne noise and vibration arising from rail systems etc. have always been adopted as a common standard among European countries.

Economic factors

Evaluate the weaknesses in the health and safety performance of any project, it is not intended to diminish the efforts made, but to contribute to the generation of important changes for the activity, such as the leadership of its management, changes through which creativity, greater individual initiative and team, as well as the growth of each one of those who give life to the Industry. If this perspective is shared, it is important to understand that such changes for the future must be initiated immediately.

With today’s  economic market, UK Rail and Construction industry, account with a substantial foreign investment and more than 50% of the general workforce. The Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development ( CIPD ) confirmed a slowdown of EU worker migrations in comparations with previous years.

The ongoing market suggest that Brexit can leads to higher prices of goods and potentially specialized services. With prices oscillating and  with the current  situation, Rail Companies have to maintain health expenditure and appropriate training in line with the projects, also in terms of safety, as well as permanent monitoring of budget to identify deviations from the cost versus lack of supervision, with the purpose of being analyzed and intervened immediately. However a long term business plan must be taken into consideration allowing provisions in all areas of the business that may suffer impact Post – Brexit.

Social aspects

Numerically Rail and construction employs the majority of workers from a foreign background. The most common reason is the difficulty of recruiting British workers. EU nationals would have a lower expectation of pay and conditions, employers will also find easier to negotiate with agencies under a 0 hour contract that will have less employment rights or obligations. Socially this has created a massive impact on my projects, with ethnicity and race attacks increasing.

Considering the uncertainties and psychological pressure Brexit may bring  to  the workforce, main directives remains outside the control of risks that could affect its supply chain, however in order to promote a harmonious environment among contractors in the common environment, since the activities carried out directly affect the conditions of coexistence of the general workforce and public Rail transportation.


Rail services imports are necessary to maintain a good running railway line, station access and carriages with 56% of the Rail parts are exported from Europe.  One of the main shared point of reference between UK and EU is TSI’s (Technical Specification for Interoperability) which cover subjects relating to standards and infrastructure compliance.

In Conclusion

The ideal solution to the issue from a political and economic point of view it would be to keep working together positively regardless of leaving or stating within the European market and in this time of uncertanty, is important to search for the correct information and support, including the workforce with the latest industry information, and a good source can be found with reconized institutes such as CIOB, IOSH and IIRSM.

Reassurance to the workforce and commitment to safety will not only allow the company to overcome the Brexit problem, with the legal, social, psychological and moral aspect involved but also will introduce a new vision of safety through Risk Management System of Occupational Health and Safety.  Positive development, it is realistic to recognize that one of the purposes of safety is to contribute and generate positive behaviors, attitudes and values of workers. Supervisors must also provide exemplary leadership to establish and maintain an attitude that produces a favorable climate for the Occupational Health and Safety programs.

Leadership can be manifested in many ways, in which a direct and continuous interest is essential in all program activities. Among the favorite activities to achieve the desired change of attitudes are the disciplinary corrective actions, the motivation campaigns, the training activities, and the presentation of testimonies during the training activities.

Unfortunately, this concern is not an automatic attribute of employees and workers. It must be developed through a well-defined, adequate, consistent and dynamic program that has the support and participation of management and promotes enthusiasm, understanding, communication and knowledge.

The intervention on the above areas can have a significant positive impact in any project, while uncertainties towards the Brexit deal on October 31st is creating unecessary hostility in our industry.