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VERBAL SAFETY CRITICAL COMMUNICATION: A NEW REGULATORY TOOL

The Railway Safety Regulator recently published a Determination on Verbal Safety Critical Communication Protocol (VSCCP) following Notice no 43110 in the government gazette of 20 March 2020. The following questions help to make sense of the VSCCP.

What is the Verbal Safety Critical Communication Protocol?

It is a safety management document that provides the minimum requirements for the management of Verbal Safety Critical Communication (VSCC) by the Safety Critical Grades within the railway industry.

What is the purpose of the Verbal Safety Critical Communication Protocol?

  • To provide a detailed communication framework necessary for the undertaking of verbal safety-critical communication within the railway industry;
  • To enhance improved procedures for Verbal Safety Critical Communication;
  • To provide a standardized approach for Verbal Safety Critical Communication within the railway industry in South Africa; and
  • To contribute to the reduction of railway occurrences attributable to verbal communication errors in the railway industry.

How does it aim to bring about the desired behavioural change and improved safe railway operations? 

The Protocol provides the minimum requirements for the management of Verbal Safety Critical Communication that would assist the railway operators to:

  • Identify and manage the risks related to Verbal Safety Critical Communication;
  • Identify the need for changes to Verbal Safety Critical Communication processes and procedures, and submit the proposed changes to the Railway Safety Regulator for review and acceptance;
  • Ensure effective Verbal Safety Critical Communication at interfaces;
  • Identify and manage competencies and requirements related to Verbal Safety Critical Communication; and
  • Identify communication barriers and provide mitigations to address related risks.

The Protocol further outlines the roles and responsibilities of specific persons in Verbal Safety Critical Communication, including:

  • How they should communicate during emergencies;
  • Recording of safety-critical conversations;
  • Principles for Verbal Safety Critical Communication;
  • The phonetic alphabets to be used during Safety Critical Communication;
  • Numbers to be used during Safety Critical Communication;
  • The use of standard radio terms; and
  • Transmission techniques.

Where to from here?

  • The Determination of Verbal Safety Critical Communication has been published in the government gazette of 20 March 2020.
  • The publication notifications were also sent to all railway operators during May 2020.
  • Online workshops are planned for the next few months to familiarise the stakeholders with the content of this document and to allow them to engage with the Regulator to seek clarification.
  • Railway operators will then familiarise themselves with the Verbal Safety Critical Communication requirements and to make the necessary plans to incorporate these requirements within their processes.
  • The operators are allowed two years to incorporate the Verbal Safety Critical Communication requirements within their processes.
  • Incorporate the Verbal Safety Critical Communication in the RSR Safety Management System assessment and compliance monitoring by the RSR will commence two years after the publication date.
  • Continual evaluation of Verbal Safety Critical Communication protocol impacts safe railway operations.

For more information, please contact: Matselanyane Makwela at matselanyanem@rsr.flywheelsites.com or Reginald Ntshingila at reginaldn@rsr.flywheelsites.com