Offensive language or behaviour of any sort, including urination or defecation in a public place, is among the list of unacceptable behaviours included in Network Rail’s new Code of Conduct for contractors and suppliers released today, as is ‘removing items of clothing’.

But there is more to this new document than trying to discourage track workers from peeing behind a tree. It has been launched to ensure that the 250,000 people who are working towards delivering the Railway Upgrade Plan on Britain’s railway infrastructure meet minimum standards on safety, and treat customers and communities with politeness and respect.

With more work being carried out on the railway, and some of that now being done during daylight hours, there are more opportunities for interaction between railway workers and the general public.  Having staff well briefed, so they can answer questions such as ‘What are you doing here, then?’ or ‘What are you doing this FOR?’ or ‘When will you be finished?  You seem to have been at it for AGES!!’ is important.  As is how to handle a question they can’t answer – to whom should the questioner be referred?

As the Code of Conduct states, ‘Trust is gained by treating each other and the communities we work in with respect and fairness and by behaving in a way that is challenging, collaborative, accountable and customer-driven.’

Topics covered include behaviours, safety – the life-saving rules and Network Rail’s safety and performance vision – working in the community, driving & vehicles, health & wellbeing, tools & equipment, behaviours, delivery and ethics.

As well as stating the obvious in some instances – under ‘delivery’ is the comment, ‘All parties will work together to make sure delivery targets are met’, there is also a host of good advice.

Feedback and conversations on safety and related topics are encouraged, and everyone should make sure that all feedback is welcomed, openly and honestly.

The new Code also states that a safe railway with improving performance requires a competent workforce and encourages all parties to work to minimise skills gaps and thoroughly manage competence.

It’s all good stuff. As Mark Carne, Network Rail’s chief executive, states in his introduction,’The railway depends on the people who work in it. Ensuring that these people behave in a professional and appropriate way is therefore of critical importance to us and to the customers and communities we serve.

‘We want to work together with those who share our determination to continuously improve in this area. We want to provide clarity on what we expect of our people and the support they can expect from us.

‘This Code of Conduct will help us do that.’

Report by Nigel Wordsworth