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Whistleblowing and Employee Health and Safety Annual Report - 2020-2021

This document has been published by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR). It says the ORR’s whistleblowing policy is designed to provide an avenue for staff in the rail and road industries to raise concerns about perceived wrongdoings, illegal conduct or fundamental misconduct that may endanger others.

ORR is a prescribed person under the Public Interest Disclosure Act (1998) (PIDA). It is required to provide workers with a way to make a public interest disclosure ('blow the whistle') where they do not feel able to disclose to their employer and they think that ORR might be able to act on their disclosure.

PIDA is narrowly focused on giving employment protection to those who raise legitimate public interest concerns about matters relating to:

a) the provision and supply of railway services; and b) any activities not covered by (a) in relation to which the Office of Rail and Road has functions.

ORR says that workers (including contractors) can talk to them about anything they have seen that causes them concern if they think it raises a matter of public interest that they feel unable to discuss with their employer.

In order for ORR to be able to consider whether it needs to investigate further or take action on the disclosure, the Board Secretary will:

  • Work with the whistleblower to clarify and understand the information offered (the disclosure), including the degree of urgency and the need for anonymity.

  • Discuss the disclosure confidentially with appropriate staff, including the legal team.

  • Advise the relevant director who will determine the course of action to be undertaken with the disclosed information.

  • Explain to the whistleblower what they can expect following the disclosure.

Whistleblowing complaints

In 2020-21 42 whistleblowing complaints raised by railway employees were received. In addition, ORR received two contacts in relation to its work as highways monitor. This represents an increase of 25% when compared to the types of cases received from 2019-20 to include concerns about implementation of COVID-19 working practices, staff treatment, fatigue, non-reporting of incidents, bullying and improper working practices.

An outline of the types of cases received include the following:

  • signalling risks during COVID-19 staff shortages

  • employment reference

  • railway staff working without social distancing

  • railway onsite working during lockdown

  • staff treatment

  • risk of train service derailment

  • management interference in safety critical functions

  • COVID-19 dispatcher shortage

  • fatigue management

  • railway management

  • allegation of nepotism and favouritism

  • non-compliant works at underground station.

Employee health and safety

ORR received 278 enquiries relating to employee health, safety and welfare in 2020-21. This amounts to an increase of 11% (from 250 cases) when compared to enquiries received in 2019-20.

Of these 278 enquiries, 44 whistleblowing complaints generated 83 concerns.

The full report is available here.

Office of Rail and Road October 2021

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