Tube Bosses Taking ‘Cavalier Risks’ With Station Training, Says RMT
London Tube bosses faced with a self-inflicted Olympics station-staffing crisis are taking “cavalier risks” with passenger and staff safety by attempting to sidestep legally enforceable standards of training, the network’s biggest union says today.
Standards of ‘station familiarisation’ introduced after the Fennel inquiry into the 1987 King’s Cross fire are being deliberately floutedin a cynical attempt to keep stations open at all costs during the games, says RMT, which has called for an urgent safety summit.
Members of the Tube’s Special Requirements Team, which provides extra station cover for special events, are being required to undertake station familiarisation in a fraction of the standard time – reducing potentially life-saving training to a box-ticking exercise.
SRT members are also being expected to achieve impossible targets by cramming detailed knowledge of up to nineteen Zone One stations – including evacuation routes, layouts, assembly and rendezvous points – which the standard says must be instantly recallable.
RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said: “LUL is in a blind panic over the Olympics because it has cut 800 station-staff posts, and now it is trying to cover its back by abusing fire-safety regulations brought in after 31 people died in the Kings Cross fire.
“Familiarisation at the huge Bank-Monument complex, which will be a key pinch-point during the Olympics, should take at least three days, but LUL bosses are insisting that SRT members do it in one – and we have evidence that it has been done in less than two hours.
“They are also expecting SRT members to ‘learn’ the unique layouts and procedures of up to five other stations in a single day, and as many as 19 in all.
“It is impossible to retain vital safety information with overload on that scale, and if ever there was a cynical attempt at window-dressing this is it.
“We are seeking an urgent safety meeting with LUL to sort this out, but it is our members who will be held responsible if things go wrong. We have advised them not to be pressed into rushing familiarisations or to sign competence certificates if they have any doubts at all.
“We hope that LUL will see sense on this, but the company should understand that RMT will stand by any member who is disciplined for upholding these vital safety standards.”
Notes to editors:
The lack of familiarisation of station layout and escape routes was one of the key criticisms levelled at London Underground by the Fennell Inquiry into the 1987 Kings Cross Fire, and the regulations applicable today were introduced as a result, reaffirmed in the 2009 Fire Precautions (sub-surface railway stations) England Regulations, which form part of the 2005 Fire Safety Order.
Under the 2005 Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, London Underground has the duty to include suitable and sufficient instruction and training on the appropriate precautions and actions to be takenby the employee in order to safeguard himself and other relevant persons on the premises (provision 21 (2)a)
The familiarisation check-list, tailored uniquely to every station, includes a substantial number of items, including means of escape, emergency-service rendezvous points, staff assembly points, evacuation plans, communications equipment and location of first-aid equipment. Familiarised staff are expected to be able to recall the information without reference.
The minimum number of staff required to be present in order to evacuate a station safely must all be certificated as ‘familiarised’.
The Bank-Monument station complex has approximately eight miles of passageways, 300 rooms, ten platforms, eleven exits, 15 escalators, six lifts, two moving walkways, two emergency service rendezvous points and two staff assembly points. More than 300,000 people pass through the complex each day – a volume that will increase substantially during the Olympics. Familiarisation is normally expected to take a minimum of three days – more for supervisors –plus five to ten shifts ‘shadowing’ an existing member of staff.
The familiarisation programme drawn up by Tube bosses also expects up to five stations to be covered in a day. One typical day’s itinerary includes Waterloo, Westminster, Piccadilly Circus, Hyde Park Corner and Fulham Broadway.
Another five-station itinerary includes Green Park, which itself would normally take half a day, along with Marble Arch, Oxford Circus, Knightsbridge and Earl’s Court.
King’s Cross, which should take a day and a half, has been lumped in with a single day’s itinerary that includes Paddington (sub and main) and St James’s Park.