Safety intelligence from the front line

Date: 15/05/2020
Author: Marc Spillman
Company: CIRAS

Giving people the chance to raise health and safety concerns confidentially embeds continuous business improvement and provides useful information, says Marc Spillman from CIRAS

What really takes place on a work site at the end of a wet nightshift?  What happens when a subcontractor turns up without suitable PPE? Have any of your people fallen asleep at the wheel?

Many companies have effective safety management systems and have improved health and safety while encouraging their workforce to speak out if anything is amiss. Still people call our reporting hotline with concerns that they don’t feel able to raise openly. Why?

My supervisor doesn’t have time to listen.”I’m worried I’ll lose my job if I speak out.” “I’m new so don’t want to rock the boat.”I don’t want my workmates to think I’m a snitch, but we are not working safely.”

Often, people just want to get on with the day job. Concerns weigh on their mind, affecting their wellbeing, but they are reluctant to speak out despite wanting issues fixed. Being able to share their concerns confidentially with an independent company makes all the difference.

Safety audits cannot take place everywhere all the time. Your people are the eyes and ears of health and safety management. When we share employees’ concerns, with their identity protected, companies gain insight which informs decisions. This can be especially useful in times of crisis, when BAU concerns may go unnoticed. One member company said: “In our opinion, a fresh voice from the frontline can influence people to reflect and review current arrangements for safety and consider better ways of doing things.”

We surveyed over 1000 staff in our member companies to discover how confident they felt about reporting health and safety concerns. Although 88 per cent of managers believed concerns were taken seriously, only 41 per cent of frontline staff did. While 80 per cent of managers felt they had good feedback if they raised a safety concern, only 30 per cent of frontline staff did. Perceptions are important because they drive trust and motivation to raise concerns.

Imagine worrying about something at work that could cause harm. If you believe someone will listen to you and act, then raising it is a no-brainer. But what if you don’t believe that, perhaps because of an experience in another company or because working relationships have broken down? A quick, confidential call can get the concern into the open so it can be resolved.

We hear sensitive or self-implicating concerns that are early warnings of potential accidents. Few people can muster the courage to report that they fell asleep on the job, but this intelligence will tell you if your fatigue management is effective.

Whatever your company’s culture and reporting channels, are you sure you have a complete picture about what’s happening out there? Reporting systems or apps can be helpful but creating the confidence and trust to use them is all about people.

Case Study: 

In January 2019 an employee contacted CIRAS’ confidential reporting hotline to raise a concern about employees being exposed to dust at Arriva TrainCare’s Crewe depot. Read more here.


The Confidential Incident Reporting and Analysis Service (CIRAS) is funded by 1,900 member companies in transport, logistics and construction as a not-for-profit. CIRAS’ mission is to improve the health, safety and wellbeing of its members’ workforce, customers and the public by providing a confidential reporting service for employees, protecting their identities and sharing their concerns so the company can act. CIRAS closes the loop with the employee so they can see the impact of their courage to speak up. Concerns often have common themes, so learning and good practice is shared with CIRAS members.

Visit, email or call Marc on 07876 578981 to find out more.