RISSB’s harmonised approach to rail training

rail training

A common approach to rail safety is being supported by a common approach to rail training.

Enabling the interconnected rail network in Australia to operate as one system is a critical challenge for the rail industry and regulators. While much attention so far has focused on developing harmonised Standards across operators and infrastructure managers, once these Standards are in place, staff need to be trained to implement or operate under these Standards.

At the forefront of efforts to harmonise the Australian rail industry and encourage interoperability is the Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board (RISSB). In addition to its work on the National Rail Action Plan and projects including the Australian Network Rules and Procedures, RISSB is delivering the training and education that enables the Australian rail workforce to communicate in one language. Michael Aviet, general manager product delivery at RISSB explains how the organisation’s training stems from this essential work.

“One of RISSB’s main objectives is to create harmonisation in industry and by delivering standardised training we can achieve that uniformity across industry,” said Aviet.

“All our training is linked back to a product held within RISSB’s Australian Code of Practice documents, whether it’s a Guideline, Standard, or a Code of Practice. What we do is we look at the trainable elements within those specific publications and then move those elements into a training course.”

RISSB has been delivering courses such as Rail Safety Investigation and Derailment Investigation and Analysis for a number of years, which are based on RISSB Standards, Guidelines, or Codes of Practice. Another way in which RISSB training aligns with its publications is in their development.

“We go to industry, we consult with them about where the gaps are, and what our members and the wider industry requires,” said Aviet. “Once we’ve identified that, we consult with key stakeholders within industry to help us identify common practices and build the course up to a comfortable level of commonality. Obviously, there are going to be things that are organisation specific, we don’t intend to get involved in telling people how to operate their business, we just want to develop a baseline of commonality through delivering standardised training packages that all of industry will accept.”

Harmonisation is also achieved through the Rail Industry Reference Committee, the body responsible for national training package qualification for rail. Sitting on this committee allows RISSB to deliver training that is targeted at what operators are looking for in their workforce.

“Through the discussions that happen in the Rail Industry Reference Committee we find out what operators are looking for in their competency matrix for the roles that they have in their organisation. Using that information, we then go out and canvas industry to find if those identified gaps are true,” said Aviet.

“We’re not going to fill every gap in industry, and I don’t think that’s RISSB’s role. For us, at the moment, it’s more about complementing the skill sets that are out there, building on people’s experience and knowledge and then trying to pull people towards a more standard, harmonised way of operating.”

This thinking has also guided the choices of which courses have been developed so far. One of RISSB’s flagship courses is Rail Safety Investigation which promotes a standardised method of investigation that aligns with the peak rail investigation body, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB).

As Aviet outlines, by promoting a consistent national approach, further harmonisation will occur.

“An operator may conduct their investigation under an incident, cause, analysis method (ICAM) which is a general health and safety style of investigation, but then a different operator may use a contributing factors framework which is based off the ATSB. The idea of the derailment investigation and analysis workshop is to get rid of that and to say, ‘We all operate like this, and it’s consistent with the ATSB which is Australia’s peak body for rail safety investigations and it’s consistent with what the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR) expects’. It’s that type of harmonisation that we’re aiming for, to bring everyone together.”

In the past year, RISSB has begun the process to become a registered training organisation (RTO) to be able to deliver courses that benefit industry.

Although something the organisation had previously considered, becoming an RTO will enable RISSB to deliver accredited course in their own right and continue promoting harmonisation.

“To get that harmonisation we want to put some controls and accreditation around our courses so that they’re recognised as best practice across the whole of Australia,” said Aviet.

Also spurring the move to become an RTO was RISSB taking over the management of the National Track Safety Induction (NTSI) course. With a strong demand from industry to have the course delivered online, for RISSB to provide that course in its own right, the move to become an RTO aligned with another initiative, to set up a learning management system for online training.

“When we turned our minds to what’s next for training, e-learning or online learning was one of those opportunities that stood out. It was really brought to the fore through external talks about the NTSI course. There is a huge demand for delivering that course online, so doing that presented a significant amount of challenges if we didn’t go down the road of firstly getting an online learning platform and those discussions led to the acceleration of the RTO accreditation discussion as well.”

The timing of the move to online learning was also fortuitous as face-to-face training could not be delivered due to COVID-19 restrictions. This made the e-learning platform a natural fit.

“COVID-19 has highlighted to us some of the challenges of being able to offer courses within a classroom environment only,” said Aviet. “So, the intention is that down the track, courses will be delivered through blended learning or only online.”

The first to be delivered fully online will be the Fundamentals of Risk Management and Rail Fundamentals courses. With online delivery making harmonisation accessible, RISSB’s training is providing the knowledge and expertise for a national rail network.

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