As railway consultants, our approach to work is through Company Policies for the important issues of Safety, Quality, Environment, Charity Support, Recruitment and Professional Development. Whilst these policies are frequently reviewed, they are summarised in their current state below.
Health & Safety is of paramount importance in railway operation. As consultants to the railway industry, we understand its overwhelming priority. In particular, we agree to abide by all regulations protecting operational property, and we also undertake to examine the safety implications of any physical works or methods of operation that we might recommend, in order that safety is not compromised.
We recognise our duties under section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act to provide a safe place of work, a safe working environment, and appropriate egress arrangements. To underscore this, the Company went beyond its legal requirements during the fitting-out of the Crystal Palace station offices, installing a fire alarm repeater panel, and a larger system than absolutely necessary, providing any other future users of the building with a system to link up to.
In the office environment within which we normally work, effort is made to ensure that facilities are arranged so as to minimise any risk from tripping, lifting, poor posture, eye strain or RSI. Staff are trained to recognise and avoid these hazards, as well as those arising from long periods of VDU use, including the risks of inappropriate lighting and inadequate breaks. More formally, we have an annual check of premises and personnel to cover electrical equipment, fire instructions and extinguishers, and other hazards. Fire practices are held, and all staff in the Crystal Palace office have received training in fire issues. Results from these tests are documented and held by the Finance & Admin Manager, who reports directly to the Managing Director.
Security of data is also important, since matters of commercial confidence are regularly dealt with. To ensure against computer failure or other problems, however, an offsite backup is kept of all company records and computerised client files.
As a company aiming for high quality standards, we undertake to assess any proposals, tenders, reports or formal advice in terms of fitness for purpose - i.e. does it answer the problem posed? We also undertake to ensure that the strength of any recommendations is in line with the (e.g. statistical) confidence which may be put in the analysis underlying it.
Project reviews are undertaken approximately monthly, at which time any instructions following a potential problem would be issued - company-wide, if the implications of a problem merited such action.
A document control system has been implemented for key project deliverables, with reports being initialled after the separate stages of writing, checking and authorisation. Checking of administrative work is carried out partly by the company's (independent) accountants. Input documents and bought products are checked carefully by two members of staff to ensure that they conform to the specified requirements, and great care is taken in installing software, to ensure that it functions as intended. All staff are selected carefully using a combination of interviews and supporting information, including references and tests as appropriate.
Quality in a consultancy covers not only the technical work, but also communication and administration activities. Our aim is to return all telephone calls within one working day, and to pay all invoices within three weeks; records are kept to check against such standards. Documents on quality activities are stored separately.
The above process has been developed over a number of years, and we believe it to be superior to some of the more recognised systems such as ISO9001. Some of those systems aim to guarantee a consistency of output through the checking of a list of actions, but we believe that our system, designed to deal with the widely-varying and unrepetitive nature of our work, is actually more likely to deliver quality output.
There are three main directions which we feel it appropriate to follow in respect of high Environmental standards; all of these also make good business sense. First, we have installed solar panels at our offices at Crystal Palace station, in order to reduce our impact upon the environment. The energy generated is equivalent to about 6% of our overall emissions, which stem mainly from our office heating/lighting and travel.
In a further bid to reduce our impact as railway consultants on the environment, we are supporting the Woodland Trust by dedicating trees at their UK woodland creation sites. As well as providing important wildlife habitats and community benefits, these new woodlands will also help to sequester CO2. The exact quantities are difficult to measure, but estimates indicate that our support should help to sequester more CO2 than the emissions associated with our travel. To reflect our emissions since 2002, the Woodland Trust has, in recent years, planted 445 trees on our behalf on their Hucking Estate, near Maidstone (Kent). In 2012, as a result of our continued efforts we have achieved carbon negative over the history of the Consultancy. The Railway Consultancy has Carbon Emissions (sequestered as noted above) due to travelling approximately 10,500 miles per month on commuting and for company business purposes, in doing so creating 25,318 kg of CO2 per annum.
Secondly, we aim to minimise the environmental impact of our travel, by using public transport wherever possible. Where appropriate (e.g. to/from Europe) we try to travel by rail in preference to air, because of its reduced carbon footprint. In addition, we do not, as a company, have any company cars or other vehicles. These actions support the aims of our project work in attempting to transfer travel demand onto the railways, all of which mean that our impact on the environment is extremely small. Our progress in using public transport can be seen from the following figures for company travel during a recent monthly audit:
Thirdly, we aim to minimise waste and maximise recycling (e.g. of paper products). All office paper (which is delivered by electric car from a local supplier) is recycled, as are some print cartridges and plastic, whilst recycled paper is re-used widely for our own activities.
The Company has chosen The Railway Children as its nominated charity, and staff have seen first-hand the benefits brought to destitute youngsters attempting to survive on stations, for instance in India.
The principal assets of a consultancy are its staff. We therefore understand that it is vital that we select the right people for the tasks which we need to carry out, irrespective of their race, gender, age, religion, political views, or any physical disabilities. We undertake to employ staff only after consideration of their qualifications and abilities, an interview, and references.
We recognise that it is essential that our staff are kept up-to-date in the latest techniques and methods for planning, analysing, managing and training the railway industry. We also understand that our staff need to be able to see the wider picture, and understand how the industry as a whole functions, rather than being solely experts in a particular discipline.
As part of a formal six-monthly staff review process, staff training requirements are identified, and such training is provided on an ongoing basis in order that staff may remain up-to-date in respect of the latest information, techniques and methods of working. All members of staff are therefore given training as appropriate. This may comprise on-the-job training, training given by other professionals within the company, or external courses, seminars and conferences. The exact allocation of this training is a balance between training needed to underpin current work, training which would enhance the overall understanding and performance of individual staff, training which would enhance the overall range of skills within the company, and the cost of that training. Our target, however, is for each railway consultant to receive five days' of training per year.
(Dr) Nigel G Harris,
9th revision 4/1/13
Last updated: Sunday, 18th December 2016
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