Handing track back at line speed is a critically important task. It's not a job that everyone can do - nor would we expect it to be. However, it is vital that those who are tasked with the track back role have the ability and personality to do so with confidence.
Recently, Balfour Beatty Rail Safety (BBRS) have been investigating what makes their track co-workers tick. And, by pioneering the use of psychometric tests as part of the track back assessment process, have identified key personality traits and characteristics which show a natural aptitude for this demanding role.
Research has shown that human factors like personality and temperament are key indicators of a track co-worker's safety. BBRS have been working with the OPC to help BBRS to identify key traits which will be used in future training and assessment processes to enhance their track safety standards.
For a track to be handed back to Network Rail at line speed it has to be approved by a qualified track back assessor, who is responsible for ensuring that all of the safety checks and surveys meet stringent quality benchmarks. There are four levels of track back assessor competence which relate to the type of renewal being inspected and the line speed of the track in question; it depends on the level of the track back assessor as to what projects they are qualified to open at line speed.
As a result of our collaboration with BBRS, psychometric tests have been built into the track back personnel assessments to determine each potential colleague's suitability for the role of track back assessor. The psychometric tests have also identified areas for further training, to enable progression through the four levels of competence.
The human factor element of the track back assessor training course consists of a one day programme where individuals discuss the links between behaviour and personality, as well as safe and unsafe behaviours and practices. Group members complete OPC Assessment's Safe Personality Questionnaire (SAFEPQ) which looks at four key personality characteristics:
- Commitment to follow rules, regulations and procedures
- Responsible and conscientious approach to work
- Calm and effective during emergencies or unexpected situations
- Cautious and patient approach to work
The results of each co-worker's questionnaire is then analysed and a summary report given to the individual together with a personal professional workplace development plan.
Already BBRS have seen excellent results from the use of psychometric testing and are confident that this will enhance their track back assessment training programme, performance and safety.
"A recent validation exercise confirmed that the scores from the SAFEPQ are a good way to predict the safety performance of an individual" explained Stacey Cooper - HR Director. "Psychometric testing is a vital tool in the development of an individual's skills, especially those in critical safety roles."