Improving health, safety and wellbeing

Hitachi Rail: Creating a high reliability safety culture

We worked in partnership with the global transportation company, Hitachi Rail, to support them in a five-step safety culture change journey to embed a consistent high reliability safety culture throughout the business.

The challenge

As a safety critical business with colleagues working in hazardous environments, Hitachi Rail has established, industry recognised health and safety controls, procedures, and training in place. However, there was a need to bring a consistent, global approach to health and safety to further reduce serious-incident risks in the business.

CEO, Andy Barr described the challenge “we need to embed safety in our culture so that it is a natural part of everyone’s day to day.

Our approach

We worked in partnership with the global transportation company Hitachi Rail to support them in a five-step safety culture change journey to embed a consistent high reliability safety culture throughout the business.

Step 1: Understand the current culture

We interviewed colleagues, from senior executives to operational colleagues, to understand the current health and safety culture, the role they currently played in creating that culture, and the behaviours that needed to change to build a consistent and effective health and safety culture.

Step 2: Set the cultural aspiration and develop the culture change strategy

We created and facilitated an interactive two-day strategy and cultural aspiration workshop that brought together HSE colleagues from around the world to review the feedback from the stakeholder insight work, identify weaknesses and priority areas for improvement, agree the cultural aspiration and map out a culture change strategy and journey.

Step 3: Equip safety leaders

We developed an interactive, one-day safety leadership workshop for leaders at all levels. The workshop was designed around 10 core leadership behaviours identified in the cultural aspiration, and enabled leaders to work in small groups around scenarios and dilemmas, exploring real incidents and real cultural challenges that were revealed in the insight work. Leaders reflected on their own behaviours and made commitments to what they can do differently – personally and as a leadership team – to improve safety culture in their area.

Step 4: Launch and engage

We used World Safety Day as an opportunity to launch Be Safe: Safety Starts with Me. Teams throughout Hitachi Rail were provided with conversation toolkits to identify and discuss critical hazards at their site and to generate safety improvement ideas. Participation in the safety day event was unprecedented, with conversations taking place across all business units in all countries, with hundreds of personal pledges being submitted.

Step 5: Embed a safety focused mindset through co-creation of Life Saving Rules

We developed workshop tools to enable health and safety colleagues around the world to involve colleagues in creating Life Saving Rules for the business. Seventy workshops involving 800 people across Hitachi Rail were delivered. All feedback from the co-creation sessions was pooled and refined into 11 key Life Saving Rules. These formed the heart of a global engagement campaign to involve everyone in exploring the Rules and what they meant for them in their role.

The outcome

Culture change takes time and continued effort, and Hitachi Rail is making great progress. From the start of the safety culture campaign in 2021 to the end of 2022 there has been:

  • 45% reduction in lost time incident frequency rates
  • 3% increase in employees responding positively to safety measures in the Hitachi Rail global engagement survey
  • 100% agreement from leaders participating in the leadership workshop that they will take action to improve their safety leadership behaviours.

In April 2023, Safety Starts with Me was awarded Best Health and Safety Project at the Safety and Health Excellence awards, and the Health and Safety Transformation award at the British Safety Council’s International Safety Awards.


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