FREE Best Practice Safety Management System Workshops for Heritage Railways


Tuesdays at 7pm live on the HOPS Facebook page, and then also posted to HOPS's YouTube Channel for catching up later.
  • Free for all railways to take part in Live Workshops
  • Ask questions and make comments live
  • Gain from others’ experiences and share your own
  • Standard suite of best practice documents for Advanced members

2021 Programme:
Tuesday 2 MarchGeneral Intro to the Workshops and First Topic: Drug & Alcohol Policy
Tuesday 13 AprilManagement of Fatigue Risk & Control of Working Hours
Tuesday 25 MayCompetence Management for Safety-Critical Staff
Tuesday 6 JulyManagement of Lone Working Risk
Tuesday 17 AugustTrack Safety
Tuesday 28 SeptemberSMS Structure and Document Control
Tuesday 9 NovemberChange Control

SMS Workshop Programme

We would like to invite you to a series of FREE heritage railway SMS best practice workshops in 2021.

HOPS has been involved in writing, reviewing or updating Safety Management Systems on a number of railways and is often asked for help on the subject, so we have arranged to continue our successful live online workshops programme in 2021 with the series of SMS Best Practice workshops. The Workshops will take place at six-week intervals at 7pm on Tuesday nights. They are live discussion videos, freely available to everyone to attend and ask questions live which we will try our best to answer as we go along based on our experience of SMSs and the management in general of heritage and main line railways. The videos will also be available to watch again later on YouTube.

While all railways are different, there are many opportunities for overlap in SMS wording and a majority of overlapping SMS principles that can be applied.

The six-week interval between workshops gives time in between each session for the local review and, where railways wish to, adaptation of the output to suit their local needs, before moving on to the next subject.

Whatever the strength of your current SMS, it is always good to review it, and good to be able to demonstrate you've reviewed it and engaged with the peer-reviewed best practice. So please do join in the HOPS workshops, share your knowledge, and see what you can learn from other organisations too!

Objectives of HOPS SMS Workshops

  • Cost Saving
  • Time Saving
  • Sharing of Best Practice
We hope these workshops will, in the long term, provide the opportunity for a (voluntary) standardised approach to SMS structure and content across HOPS members, in the same way as other HOPS tools have done. This will reduce the burden, cost and time spent on each railway 're-inventing the wheel' independently and provide a robust basis for everyone to be able to demonstrate that their SMS is developed from a standard suite of documents that have been peer-reviewed by a wide community of similar organisations.

It is important, more so with every passing year, that we work together to make the most of all of our limited resources to achieve a better future for us all.

For Advanced HOPS Members:

For Advanced HOPS members, the best practice resulting from the workshop and contributors’ comments will be published into a standard suite of SMS documents.

We do not suggest that it will always be appropriate for railways to pick up the standard document or workshop output, re-badge it with the railway name, and publish it as your SMS. However, we do believe that, following careful consideration of the adequacy of the contents of that standard document in meeting the railway's particular local risks, understanding the principles of how the document was arrived at by taking part in the workshop, and then making local alterations accordingly, that a lot of the hard work of SMS writing can be saved, even if only in 'knowing where to start' and the bones of what to include.

Safety Management Systems - General Information

An SMS is not 'just' a document that we have ‘because it is required by ROGS’ and that can be put on the weighing scales to determine its adequacy. It is instead measured on its quality, its delivery of better control of risk and, in practice, better defence for the railway following an incident.

The SMS has to be an accurate reflection of what the railway does, and the railway has to accurately reflect what the SMS says. In many cases there are no right and wrong answers: it doesn’t matter whether the inspections are done weekly or fortnightly, as long as it can be backed up by a rationale that’s based on the risk, and as long as we then actually do what it says.

Remember, there is no law or rule that says you can never have any risk, just that you must identify the risk, mitigate it as best you can, reduce it as low as reasonably practicable and make sure what risk is left isn't unacceptable. The SMS is all about delivering that and, importantly, demonstrating that you are delivering that.

In some cases, the SMS is written to support the company structure, and in some cases the structure is built to conform to the SMS; it doesn’t matter which way as long as they correlate. For this reason (and others) it isn't appropriate to just 'get' an SMS from somewhere else and say 'that's our SMS!', as it will not actually reflect the operation concerned. It has to be something that has been thought through, understood, briefed, and lived by. Otherwise it's pointless, as it won't help you control risk and it won't help you demonstrate that you're controlling risk.

The HOPS SMS Workshops will talk through this process and provide the best, standardised starting point that has ever been constructed for heritage railways.

So no matter what the state of your current SMS, from the very comprehensive to something that needs a lot of work - there is something for you to gain from taking part in these workshops and we look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at the first SMS Workshop, at 7pm on Tuesday 2 March!