Circle Insights

Reducing risk in the transport industry through workforce management

Ollie Watson

Reducing risk entails several factors. Most pertinently, worker safety. Rules and regulations exist to protect workers, from health and safety directives to working time directives, covering working conditions to fatigue. Then there’s risk to projects and tasks. If they are done improperly, then tasks need to be redone. This impacts overarching projects, both in terms of time and cost. Of course, accidents and mistakes happen. Building in mitigation for such events is prudent. But what if you can identify patterns and head off errors before they happen? Competency management, as part of a robust workforce management process, can help.

Workforce management – training 

Training management is essential across largescale workforces. From mandatory ongoing courses, refresher courses and training staff in new skills to upskill your workforce and offer career progression, having a robust training programme in place forms the backbone of this. 

By linking training to other areas of your workforce management, such as assessments and scheduling, it makes it possible to identify skills gaps across your workforce. To reduce the risk of these gaps impacting upon project and service delivery, you can appropriately train existing members of staff to fill these gaps.  

It also makes it possible to utilise your training programme to focus on specific areas and tasks where mistakes are occurring. By pooling data from accidents and assessments, you can identify repeat errors. In doing so, you can then tailor your approach to training to better prepare staff for areas in which, statistically, they are most likely to pose a risk to themselves and overarching projects. 

Workforce management – assessments 

Knowing that staff have the appropriate qualifications, skills, training and experience is one thing. But how are they actually fulfilling the tasks to which they have been assigned? Regular, ongoing assessments of your workforce are crucial. This is both from a safety and a service delivery perspective.  

From a safety perspective, many roles within the transport industry pose a safety risk. From infrastructure workers to drivers, the risk of getting things wrong can be catastrophic. It’s prudent to check in to ensure that tasks are being conducted properly. 

From a service delivery perspective, mistakes can result in shoddy work. This means that it needs to be redone, which costs time and money, impacting upon project timelines and budgets.  

This extends to maintenance, too. We regularly see on the rail network, for example, things such as signal failures which result in delays and cancellations. Regular assessments of infrastructure are vital to repairing the roof whilst the sun is shining.  

Reducing risk in the transport industry through workforce management

Overarching planning to manage risk 

Proper, robust planning builds in sufficient time to complete tasks, with enough room for reasonable error. People make mistakes, external factors such as the weather can waylay you and where there are several moving parts. Things don’t always come together as you’d hope. Mitigating for this by building it into your planning is sensible. 

When it comes to specific tasks, however, granular detail is important. When scheduling your workforce, workers can be assigned to shifts on a rolling basis ad infinitum. But how can the specifics and the complexity of each shift and its tasks be considered? How can these then be communicated with staff? 

Using a central system with the ability to overlay such complexity onto shifts can drive efficiency and greater control of the overarching project and its processes. It can be established according to your bespoke business rules and configured to factor in elements such as regulations and directives. 

Understanding what will happen during a shift is important. If maintenance needs to be performed, being able to communicate exactly what equipment is required, the nature of the task and the location helps to prepare people. As the process continues, being able to intelligently alter task timelines based upon previous completion times and rates enables a more accurate scheduling of tasks. If, for example, you have set aside three hours for the completion of a task but staff are regularly completing it in two hours, then future timelines can be adjusted accordingly. 

This helps to drive a more complete understanding of your projects and how your staff are performing against timelines and tasks. This in turn helps to mitigate the risk of work running over time, since you can rely on a robust database of previous work to inform future projects.  


Finally, the regulatory aspect is crucial. Things such as the working time directive exist to combat elements such as fatigue. A central database that can further call upon the geographic location of staff can help to more efficiently assign them to tasks. If someone is 20mins away from the location of a task, it makes more sense to assign them to it than someone 1hr away. Since travelling time is considered as a factor in fatigue management, it’s an extremely inefficient use of time to swallow it up on travelling times. 

Managing risk extends across the entirety of the transport industry, from workforce safety to service delivery. With so many moving parts – risks – being able to navigate them and efficiently and reliably match those moving parts to your targets is essential to achieving the ultimate goals of your organisation. A well trained, regularly assessed and robustly scheduled workforce forms the backbone of this.  

The technology exists to help largescale transport organisations to gain greater control of their workforce management. From training and assessments to scheduling, having a single view of your workforce facilitates automation, insight and, ultimately, efficiency. It’s a topic we’ve explored in more detail in our recent white paper, Tackling workforce management complexities in transport. You can download your free copy here.

Contact us now
Ollie Watson