Rail boss tackles unrest over 'near misses'
Irish Rail chief executive David Franks has moved to appease unrest following the publication of a damning audit which raises serious safety concerns at the semi-State company.
Mr Franks, who earns an annual salary of €211,000, sent an email to staff yesterday after details of the draft audit were published by the Irish Independent.
The audit, which is currently in draft form, warned that railway staff are failing to report 'near misses' which could result in death or injury for fear of being blamed by senior management.
Examples of non-reporting of near misses included incidents of overspeeding and marker boards, (erected to advise drivers about temporary speed restrictions) being out of position.
The report commissioned by the Railway Safety Commission (RSC) also pointed to a level of mistrust between staff and senior management.
Mr Frank said management is working to improve the level of near misses through greater awareness and urged staff to show no hesitation in reporting near misses to the company.
"The more we know about safety, the more we record near-miss incidents, the more we can prevent more serious incidents from happening in the future.
"This protects your safety, that of our customers and that of third parties who engage with us," Mr Franks said.
He added that a "close call" hotline and email address have been set up for staff to report incidents or near misses.
"I would hope that no colleague would ever feel reluctant for any reason to report a safety concern, but Close Call allows for anonymous reporting should this be the case."
However, the Irish Independent understands that the report's findings have caused deep consternation at board level in Irish Rail and have been brought to the attention of Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe.
Mr Franks and Irish Rail chairman Phillip Gaffney are understood to have written to the RCS disputing the claim that staff are not reporting near misses for fear of being reprimanded.
The company claimed instead that the low level of near-miss reporting can be attributed to issues such as staff apathy and peer pressure.
Meanwhile, the National Bus and Railway Union (NBRU) has reacted furiously to the fact that the report emerged in the public domain before frontline staff were given the opportunity to examine its contents.
"I would find it quite extraordinary that staff... have not had the opportunity to... respond to some of the assertions," said NBRU general secretary Dermot O'Leary in a letter to RSC Chairman Gerald Beesley.