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Three-course dog's dinner

It’s the annual fish-out-of-water season. In the murky depths of M&S's lingerie section, shoals of furtive husbands immerse themselves in wishful thoughts before settling on a gift voucher. Foolishly I have raised the stakes this year with an expensive pre-Christmas indulgence - an all-singing digital camera. I suggested to my better half that its dynamic processing algorithms and corrective aberration circuitry would make her look even more beautiful, only to be reminded that you can’t improve on perfection. A schoolboy error of judgement.

Instruction manuals spoil the adventure and I have no time for them until smoke begins to rise. But I was forced to grab a lifeline whilst floundering in my camera’s multi-level menu. Following a prolonged period of head-scratching, I discovered that the 64-page tome describes a less sophisticated model from 2003. The array of exciting, upgraded features has actually been explained piecemeal in the manufacturer’s six-monthly technical compendiums - which cover their entire range - and two-monthly periodicals of photographic guidance produced by a major retailer. These have to be sourced separately after registering with the appropriate distributor.

I jest of course. No organisation which cares about its customers would service their needs in such a ridiculous manner. Which begs the question, why do we take this approach with safety critical rules?

Take T2 for example. From this month a Protection Controller can share their blockage with IWAs as well as COSSs - a useful thing to know if you Instinctively Wander About. Unfortunately this doesn’t appear in module T2 as it’s not been reissued. Instead an almost invisible reference with no supporting actions has been attached to the definition of a PC in module T7.

Even if they had it, a PC probably wouldn’t bother reading a definition of themselves so their new client base is explained in December’s Periodical Operating Notice. This is just one of a whole cluster of tweaks to T2 which otherwise are helpfully buried in the 221-page avalanche known as the Amendments module (AM Issue 3). Are you following this?

Also making its inaugural appearance is a rule allowing COSSs and IWAs, working within a possession but outside a worksite, to enjoy the benefits of a 40mph speed restriction provided they agree arrangements with the PICOP. This tasty morsel is included in the new T7 but not the COSS Handbook, rendering the latter incomplete. A cut-and-paste briefing document has been issued to paper over the cracks. The balancing instructions for PICOPs and drivers - which should be in T3 and T11 - are, once again, only found amongst the clutter of module AM.

This is not what we were promised four years ago during the Rule Book’s extensive cosmetic surgery, promoted under the slogan ‘clarity in action’. According to delegates at the review project’s workshops, amendments made via the PON were logistically awkward and often missed their intended audience. They wanted less frequent revisions with whole sections transplanted. So, in November 2003 - with no mention made of a separate annex for Amendments - RSSB informed us that “in future, changes will simply involve replacing a complete module”. What happened to that commitment?
...RSSB informed us that “in future, changes will simply involve replacing a complete module”. What happened to that commitment?

Our frontliners hear many sermons from the pulpit demanding their compliance with track safety rules. Unearthing those instructions now involves a painstaking archaeological excavation with subsequent reconstruction of the fragments. It’s an absolute shambles which lays the foundations for confusion, error and irregularity. I hope the RMT is making a noise about it before one of its members falls into a trap.

There’s more to communication than mere publication. Rules are best understood when seen in context, presented coherently and considered in a logical manner. Today’s three-course dog’s dinner might be the cheap, easy option but it fails any test of common sense.

Story added 1st December 2006
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