HL Deb 23 May 1989 vol 508 cc386-8WA
Baroness Blatch

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they expect to publish the Railways Inspectorate's report on the safety management systems for London Underground stations.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Lord Brabazon of Tara)

As my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport told the House on 10th November 1988 (Official Report, Vol. 140, No. 215, cols. 496–497), he commissioned the Chief Inspecting Officer of Railways to carry out an urgent survey of the safety management systems applying to stations on London Underground. The report has now been completed and my right honourable friend is arranging for it to be published this afternoon, together with London Underground's written response to it. Copies are being placed in the Library of the House.

London Underground's first priority, after the King's Cross fire and, later, Mr. Fennell's report on it, was to take immediate action to deal with potentially unsafe equipment and conditions. This includes, for example, fitting fire detection and alarm systems on escalators and the removal of wood panelling as part of a safety programme costing nearly £300 millions over three years.

Safety is not, however, only about equipment and investment. It is now increasingly recognised that formal management systems to promote and monitor health and safety are required. Mr. Fennell recommended that the Railway Inspectorate should keep the Underground's management of safety under review. Today's report is the result of action taken on that recommendation.

The report is based on a survey conducted by a team drawn from the Railway Inspectorate, the Health and Safety Executive and the London Fire Brigade. They assessed London Underground's safety management systems against the standards of the International Safety Rating System (ISRS), one of several recognised methods for safety audit, but one which has previously been applied mainly in other industries. The ISRS is designed to provide a progressive safety management programme. The optimum standards within the ISRS represent excellence in safety management, which should be achieved some five to 10 years after the introduction of the programme.

During their field work in January and February, the team found that some aspects were well managed, these included the Underground's controls on purchasing, employment of contractors, and the arrangements for recruiting and placing staff. However, the team also found that much work still remains to be done. This includes the need for major improvements in leadership in safety management; in training for managers in health and safety; and in preparation of procedures for critical tasks, engineering controls and behavioural aspects.

The teams's report makes 26 major recommendations, together with a large number that are more detailed. The team consider that the priority areas for action, in addition to leadership in health and safety management, are job analysis and observation, organisational rules, engineering control and preparedness for emergencies. These recommendations set the course for a long-term programme of improvements to the Underground's safety management systems.

My right honourable friend discussed the report with the chairman of London Regional Transport, Mr. Wilfrid Newton. He expressed his serious concern at some of the findings and made clear that decisive and sustained action is required. Mr. Newton has responded positively and quickly.

London Underground's written response shows that they accept, in whole or part, all but one of the 71 recommendations. London Underground do not accept, however, the recommendations that the board's safety committee should be chaired by the managing director. Although the managing director has line management responsibility for safety and the safety staff report directly to him, London Underground believe that the safety committee should be chaired by an independent non-executive director who, in accordance with one of Mr. FennelPs recommendations, has special responsibility for safety.

The chairman of LRT has welcomed my right honourable friend's proposal that the Railway Inspectorate should conduct a further survey in about 18 months' time. Meantime, the inspectorate will be monitoring progress closely through its programme of visits to stations and contracts with managers at all levels.