Centre for Psychological Research

Enchancing the behavioural safety capacity of two major rail maintenance companies

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships with two major infrastructure companies, improving safety cultures, reducing injuries, and producing financial savings and new contracts.

Enchancing the behavioural safety capacity of two major rail maintenance companies

The challenge

The railway maintenance industry involves complex human machine interactions and safety critical operations with considerable risks for health and safety of its employees.

This can include maintenance of railway track, overhead lines, signalling systems, power supplies, security systems and inspection of rail assets (e.g., stations and bridges). Despite a downward trend in injury rates in UK workplaces, accident occurrence in the rail industry remains an on-going issue. Results from the RSSB Annual Safety Performance Report for 2016/17, show that there were 164 major injuries to members of the UK rail workforce during this period.

Pressure in the marketplace and from industry bodies (e.g. RSSB, ORR) for companies to evidence their behavioural safety capability has increased markedly. However, companies lack the necessary psychological/behavioural knowledge and skills.


The approach

The PASH research team at Leeds Beckett University (LBU), led by Dr Jim Morgan and Dr Matteo Curcuruto, help safety-critical organisations to translate organisational psychology, human factors, and health psychology research knowledge into enhanced behavioural safety management practices. It should be noted that the term “behavioural safety” is widely used across safety critical industries rather than by academic researchers applying psychology.

PASH conducted work with two major rail infrastructure companies over two overlapping three-year periods (Amey 2015-2018; VolkerRail 2016-2019). Both projects were supported by Knowledge Transfer Partnership funding from the respective companies and Innovate UK. The broad objective of both projects was similar in that the challenge was to assess and enhance existing behavioural safety strategies, although the Amey project had a wider remit to create a behavioural safety framework with no prior knowledge of the existing safety management system.

The impact

Impact for Amey

In March 2019 the Amey KTP was awarded the highest rating of “Outstanding” by independent Innovate UK assessors based on impact for company, research associate, and knowledge base (LBU).

  1. Reduced accident frequency

    Accident frequency rates in Amey’s rail operations have reduced (33% reduction in lost time injuries, 25% reduction in non-lost time injuries). Amey’s consulting team has now been injury free for over 2 years (for lost time injuries). Amey has also seen an increase in close call report frequencies, an indicator of increased employee confidence in the safety management and reporting system and their perceptions of how the company will respond.

  2. Gold standard

    SafetySmart was a major component of Amey’s submission under the behaviour safety requirements for ROSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents), leading to the achievement of Gold status. This shows Amey’s commitment to the highest standards of corporate responsibility and further improves its reputation and relationships within the supply chain.


Amey estimates that as a result of SafetySmart annual turnover will increase by £1,350,000 in the three years following project completion. The enhanced internal capability means Amey has reduced its use of external safety consultants, which cost average of £1,500 per day. SafetySmart is also an important feature in successful bids, for example in work worth £47.9m with Highways England.

I have been delighted with the engagement of our frontline people to help influence the outcomes. It has been invaluable in helping us to understand the issues that we need to deal with and will contribute significantly to reducing and eliminating injuries in our workplace.

Justin Page Account Director - Amey

Impact for VolkerRail

In March 2019 the VolkerRail KTP was awarded the second highest rating of “Very Good” by Independent Innovate UK assessors based on impact for company, research associate, and knowledge base (LBU)

  1. Improving safety culture, learning and risk management

    This work has supported the achievement of VolkerRail’s strategic goals relating to improving safety culture, learning and risk management. Evidence of progress can be seen in work focusing on the development and implementation of a novel evidence-based behaviour change approach, the evaluation and redevelopment of the safety conversation framework, recommendations for supervisor development, and an improved ability to evaluate organisational/safety culture through the use of psychological metrics.

  2. Promoting an ‘open-and-honest’ culture

    Development of a behavior change toolkit which enables the identification and prioritisation of specific safety behaviours using existing company accident and incident data and structured methods to determine the specific enablers and barriers using employee feedback. Worker responses are used to target and tailor specific interventions aim at changing the safety behavior. These efforts have been recognised in the form of a team award nomination (for behavioural safety coaches) at the RailStaff awards 2020.

  3. Safety culture toolkit

    The development of a safety culture toolkit as a result of YourAIM, which is comprised of various psychological measures, exceeds recommendations made by the ORR and has improved VolkerRail’s measurement, monitoring of, and ability to improve, safety culture maturity.


VolkerRail estimates that as a result of YourAIM annual turnover has increased by £250,000, and £1,000,000 in the three years following project completion.

Our deeper knowledge of behavioural factors influencing safety for our workers has allowed us to implement system and process changes that, in combination with other safety measures, has resulted in a steady decrease in accidents and incidents and the recent achievement of a zero accident frequency rate (AFR). Our collaborative KTP initiative, the YourAIM project, is continuing to enhance our proactive safety approach with the aim of developing targeted and tailored safety interventions closely informed by psychological and behavioural data.

Stuart Webster-Spriggs HSQE Director - VolkerRail

Impact for wider rail industry

The success of this work and the benefits of rail companies working with behavioural psychologists has been recognised across the industry.

  • Amey’s SafetySmart developed the first validated Safety Climate survey for the rail industry
  • The Amey KTP was commended by the Rail Safety & Standards board and shortlisted for a ‘world class collaboration’ award by the UK Rail Industry Awards 2018 panel
  • CIRAS (the confidential incident reporting and analysis service) commended the Amey KTP and featured it twice in national publications
  • The influential Rail Technology Magazine discussed Amey’s progress in its feature ‘What’s next for safety?’
  • The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health magazine featured our work with VolkerRail on safety behavior

  • Morgan, J., Abbott, R., Furness, P. and Ramsay, J. (2016) UK rail workers’ perceptions of accident risk factors: An exploratory study. International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics, 15 September, pp. 103-113.
  • Griffin, M.A. and Curcuruto, M.M. (2016) Safety Climate in Organizations. Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, 3 April, pp. 191-212.
  • Curcuruto, M., Griffin, M., Kandola, R. and Morgan, J.I. (2018) Multilevel Safety Climate in The UK Rail Industry: A Cross Validation of the Zohar and Luria MSC Scale. Safety Science, Vol 110 (part B), pp. 183-194.
  • Curcuruto, M.M., Parker, S.K., and Griffin M.A. (2019) Proactivity towards workplace safety improvement: an investigation of its motivational drivers and organizational outcomes, European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 28:2, 221- 238, DOI: 10.1080/1359432X.2019.1572115
  • Morgan, J.I., Curcuruto, M.M., Steer, M., & Bazzoli, A. (2020) A new approach to occupational safety based on the Theoretical Domains Framework: Development of the Safety Behaviour Change Questionnaire (submitted to Safety Science April 2020)

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