The responsibility in the hands of safety critical workers is immense, particularly for a COSS (controller of site safety).
Their primary role is to manage a safe system of work to protect staff from trains, and also to safeguard trains from staff and engineering works. A COSS is responsible for the safety of the group and is liable to prosecution if a team member is injured, or worse still, killed as a result of COSS negligence.
To be able to shoulder this responsibility, a COSS must spend a suitable amount of time working in a safety critical environment and at Resourcing Solutions, we insist that this is a minimum of two years. They must have also undertaken a five day course (6 days if you include the DCCR competency) which includes a mix of both technical and soft skills training. This is followed by a period of time being mentored by an experienced COSS, as well as undergoing regular assessments including a review of how good the SSOW briefing is (it needs to be accurate, concise and engaging).
Top notch soft skills
Before a COSS (and entire safety critical team) can be truly effective, they need to possess a wide range of ‘soft skills’ that stretch beyond technical and on track expertise and experience. These skills may not always come naturally to engineers who may see them as a bit fluffy and woolly! However skills such as communication, influencing (team members and superiors), collaboration, team work, problem solving, critical observation and conflict resolution are vital in ensuring the maximum safety of rail workers. For example, without effective communication skills a COSS cannot effectively brief a team and not being able to swiftly manage conflict or being ineffective at pushing back on the demands of superiors could put them and their team at increased risk.
The industry is aware of the need to develop key soft skills and these are covered in training, practical experience, assessments and ongoing communication with workers. Recruitment partners also play a key part in assessing and upskilling safety critical workers in all aspects of soft skills. At Resourcing Solutions we carry out an initial assessment of workers communication skills, and we work closely with our clients to promote the correct behaviours via regular health and safety briefings, social media and email communications and toolbox talks.
Let us know what you think about your own soft skills, or those in your team or project.
Do you feel that more can be done to develop these skills in the world of safety critical?
Resourcing Solutions is a leading recruitment specialist in rail, power and the built environment, partnering key organisations to provide them with skilled safety critical candidates for projects right across the UK and overseas. If you are a candidate looking for a new role, you can search the latest safety critical jobs at our dedicated page.