Birse Rail

Company profile

  • No. of employees: 800 (including specialist contractors)
  • Business sector: Construction
  • Business activities: Specialist railway engineering
  • Stakeholders: Employees, managers, subcontractors, clients
  • Location: UK-wide

Birse Rail, part of Birse Construction, provides specialist railway engineering services across the UK. By adopting a zero tolerance culture, significant reductions in accidents have improved safety, reduced business interruptions, and strengthened supply chain relations.

The challenge

2001 was notable for six reportable health and safety incidents, two of which involved non-Birse Rail employees. The Safety First initiative set out to significantly reduce the accident frequency rate (AFR) to 0.2, based on a principle of zero tolerance.

What did the company do?

Business benefits

Health and safety benefits

'The performance is a testament to the controls, procedures, competencies and most importantly culture that is inherent within the business.'

Neil Thompson, Managing Director

'The success of the initiative speaks for itself. We're providing a safer place to work for our staff, reducing business interruptions and further strengthening our relationships with clients and contractors.'

Steve Jones, Assurance Manager Birse Rail

Cost benefits

The induction and health and safety training costs for the direct labour force are around £15,000 a year. The cost of the assurance and supply chain managers' time spent on health and safety matters is around £120,000 a year (direct and indirect costs).

The business benefits that Birse Rail has enjoyed as a result of Safety First haven't been quantified. However, the company is confident that the significant reduction in accidents, resulting in less management time spent managing staff absence through injury and investigating incidents and fewer claims more than recovers the annual costs of the initiative. The improvements in client and contractor relations are an additional bonus.


'We will uphold a zero tolerance attitude towards unsafe practices. We will ensure a culture of non acceptance towards the idea it is inevitable that accidents occur.'

Neil Thompson, Managing Director

Worker involvement

Significant commitment has been shown by employees across the organisation, as well as from within the supply chain, to achieve a reduction in the AFR.

Updated 2022-01-07