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Star service

first_imgStar serviceOn 1 Jan 2002 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos. Eurostar’s OH department uses a proactive approach to innovate ideas andprovide a comprehensive range of services covering all aspects of the health ofits staff, by Elizabeth Harvey and Julia Wason After many decades of deliberation, construction for a Channel tunnel beganin 1987. In 1994, Eurostar services started, initially with high speed, passenger-onlytrains between London and Paris and Brussels. Within a short time Eurostarfirmly established its position as leader on the London to Paris and London toBrussels air/rail markets – a position it has maintained and strengthened. In 1999 Eurostar Group was formed to provide a centralised management todetermine commercial strategy and development of the product and service. The service was, and continues to be operated by railways from the threecountries it serves – in the UK, by the private company Eurostar (UK), and inFrance and Belgium by their national railways SNCF and SNCB respectively.Together they provide around 60 services daily. These run from London andAshford in Kent to the European capitals with Lille and Calais Frethun en route.Services also operate direct to Disneyland Paris and to the ski resorts of theFrench Alps. The British operating arm, Eurostar (UK), employs 1,500 people of variousnationalities who work at the international terminals at Waterloo and Ashford,North Pole International Depot, Ashford Call Centre and offices in London. Staff requirements A high percentage of customer service and safety critical staff are requiredto speak more than one language. Train drivers require a minimum of five yearsdriving experience on national railways before joining Eurostar. They then have an extensive training programme including French languagetuition to enable them to drive trains on international routes. A highpercentage of staff work shift systems and travel regularly between Paris andBrussels. There are mandatory medical standards for particular categories ofoccupations both for those employed and for potential employees. Thesecategories include drivers, train managers, engineering staff, and all otheremployees who work in safety critical positions. Background of the OH service The occupational health service is managed as a job share between theauthors who both have 15 years experience in occupational health, and both ofwhom have worked within commercial, educational, and railway environments. Theyare used to working with a high degree of autonomy within a safety criticalbusiness and have found sharing the job to be beneficial in many ways, such aslearning from each other’s strengths and solving problems by encouraging eachother to think laterally. As Savage puts it, “Good communication skillsare fundamental to successful job sharing”1. Other key elements are to plan and organise time and workload effectivelythrough handover procedures, to be flexible and to agree and present a unitedview on issues. They provide peer supervision to each other on a day-to-day basis andacknowledge the need to obtain independent supervision to enhance theirprofessional development and practice. To this end they attend clinicalsupervision on a monthly basis. Within the framework of Eurostar (UK) human resources the aim is to providean occupational health service for all employees that attains the highestprofessional standards possible and where there is a commitment to bestpractice in occupational health nursing. In order to achieve this aim acomprehensive range of OH services has been developed covering all issuesrelating to the health of the employee. Objectives The Eurostar (UK) business objectives are to maintain and improve safetystandards and the service it delivers to customers; to increase passengerrevenue and reduce operating costs, and to help employees achieve improvedperformance. With clear business objectives the role of occupational health can betailored to the business needs. As Artus and colleagues state, “Theobjective of occupational health nursing practitioners is to contribute to thebottom line financial performance of the companyÉ through the protection andpromotion of the most costly elements in an organisation – theemployees”2. The railway environment Railways are a high hazard environment. Employees may witness fatalitiesfrom suicides, and assaults, both verbal and physical, are a feature of theindustry. Public transport workers are therefore in a high risk group3. Employees may be involved in a distressing incident and the company aims toensure that if they are exposed to a traumatic incident they are offered theopportunity to talk to the occupational health manager for a critical incidentdebriefing. Employees are offered an appointment 24-72 hours after an incident.A company leaflet designed by the occupational health managers onpost-traumatic stress is given to employees who have experienced a traumaticevent to inform them of how they may feel and where to seek further support ifnecessary. Employees may also be referred to GPs or counsellors trained intraumatic stress when necessary. Eurostar employees were closely involved in the rescue following thePaddington/Ladbrooke Grove disaster on 5 October 1999 when two trains collided.This occurred on the main line track adjacent to Eurostar’s engineering depotwhere 200 people were working. Eurostar employees were some of the first at thescene and worked alongside the emergency services to free passengers from thetrains. At the time almost all employees were affected in some way. Theoccupational health department conducted a series of debriefings for staffduring this period and also on the first anniversary of the crash. The development of the OH service The Paddington/Ladbroke Grove incident raised the profile of the role ofoccupational health and the contribution it can make to a company, andhighlighted mental health as an important factor which could form the basis forfurther research. It is not anticipated that Eurostar (UK) Ltd will employ anabove average number of people with mental health problems, but it isacknowledged that mental health is becoming one of the main contributory causesof sickness absence in industry4. It has been recognised that within the functions of the company, employeesare exposed to different potential health risks, such as the effects of shiftworking, location, working away from home and working directly with the generalpublic, who can be verbally and physically aggressive3. Also, as previouslyillustrated, employees may witness a critical incident resulting in fatalities.Stress management programmes including workshops had been offered to managersand employees for several years and although these had always been wellreceived they were not necessarily addressing any fundamental organisationalstress factors. To be able to introduce a proactive programme, an assessment of the actualsituation was necessary and independent occupational psychologists werecommissioned to carry out an occupational health well being audit. Well-being audit The aim of the audit was to identify the extent of stress and causes ofstress within the company. Initially only the safety critical sections of thebusiness were to take part. But if a clear assessment was to be achieved theaudit needed to be wider and include such areas as the call centre in Ashfordwhere exposure to stress was becoming more recognised. The OH managers and the occupational psychologist agreed a methodology andthe researchers designed a questionnaire specific to Eurostar (UK) and met withfocus groups. A summary of the findings together with the researchers’ recommendationswere presented within 12 weeks and from this a structured action plan wasformulated for the company. This included company objectives together withaction points for the occupational health department. This audit provided the opportunity to develop the OH service and introducehealth programmes designed specifically to meet the needs and tasks of people’sjobs, location and shifts. Action points The key areas which were developed as a consequence of this audit haveincluded relaunching the occupational health service, developing andimplementing a back care programme, introducing lifestyle assessments andoffering eye tests for customer service employees. The fundamental areas of work, which include managing medical and EAP(employee assistance programme) contracts, health referrals, critical incidentstress debriefing and DSE awareness training, remain a core part of the OHmanager’s function. With the implementation of specific health programmes theOH service now provides employees with readily available specialist support andinformation. Conclusion Occupational health managers have found that working within a proactiveenvironment allows innovative ideas to develop. However, it is necessary tocollect and collate data of all activities to an agreed time scale and presentthese in a format familiar to the organisation. To provide a cost-effective occupational health service it is necessary – To identify the need, justify the reason and reference this to businessneed – Focus specifically on key functions of the business but not forgettingother employees – Confirm clear objectives and time scales – Carry out regular occupational health service audits both of a qualitativeand quantitative nature including clinical audits – Work to set OH protocols to provided the tool for audit References 1. Savage S (2001) Flexible Working, Personnel Today. 2. Artus K, et al (undated) A Professional Perspective of OccupationalHealth Nursing. SOHN and the Association of UK OH Nurse Practioners. 3. HSE (1999) British Crime Survey. 4. CBI (2000) Focus on Absence. 5. ENB, DOH (1988) Occupational Health Nursing Contributing to HealthierWork Places. Elizabeth Harvey and Julia Wason are occupational health managers atEurostar (UK) Ltd, London Eurostar’s occupational health objectives– To ensure that all safety criticalstaff (such as drivers and maintenance staff) are medically fit – To reduce costs by reducing sickness absence levels– To prevent costly litigation against the company by providingoccupational health advice on matters such as the DDA– To encourage better individual performance by a programme ofhealth promotionThe cost to industry of sicknessabsence is significant in all businesses and affects not just those people whoare ill but also their families and colleagues5last_img read more