“It’s all about preparing yourself for the future”

Over the past couple of years, Denmark's biggest public company in the field of rail transport, DSB, has been on a major Risk Management journey.
Photo credit: DSB

In close collaboration with If, DSB works constantly to improve safety – both on and away from the tracks.

With 500,000 people taking the train every day, 298 stations all over the country, more than 7,000 employees and responsibility for buildings and workshops, there is no shortage of safety considerations for DSB to keep an eye on.

So Denmark's biggest public company in the field of rail transport also works constantly to secure ongoing safety improvements in and around the business. This includes a close dialogue with If, with whom DSB has had a partnership for years and with whom they have just decided to continue this partnership.

"If has been good at understanding what kind of organisation DSB is and contributing input and suggested improvements for our safety. Then it's up to us to find out how their recommendations fit into the journey we're on. But it's a fruitful partnership, and this smart work method helps to keep trains running safely, which benefits our customers," says Gert Mikkelsen, Senior Vice President at DSB.

One of the things he emphasises is the expertise that If contributes to engineers' reports.
"It's always useful to have a fresh pair of eyes looking at your business from the outside. The engineers' reports give us inspiration, new knowledge and better conditions for producing some loss scenarios. This good dialogue also creates value moving forwards, as If has tremendous experience and knowledge of new construction projects, which we can benefit from, for example when we're building new workshops," says Gert Mikkelsen.

He goes on to explain that the engineers' reports have created greater awareness of how big the consequences can be for the business if, for example, there is a fire in a workshop.

"The engineers' reports document very clearly that there can be some hazards that you might not give any thought to in your everyday work, when the focus is more on production. So even if it might sound trivial, we've put a greater focus on not storing combustible material such as wooden pallets against a combustible wall or building containing combustible insulation material," says Gert Mikkelsen.

Photo credit: DSB. In the picture Niels Dam, General Manager, Head of Development and Enterprise, DSB Real Estate and Gert Mikkelsen, Senior Vice President, DSB

Culture programme

DSB has several levels of Risk Management. There is the overarching level, at which DSB attempts to define the major strategic pitfalls and risks that may affect the business in the future. And then there is the way they work on safety in everyday work, where they have to make sure not only that railway safety is in order, but also that the underlying infrastructure in buildings and workshops is also functioning optimally.

In this context, DSB has focused a lot on making improvements in many of their workshop areas and in selected larger station buildings, explains Niels Dam, who is General Manager of Head of Development and Enterprise at DSB Real Estate.

"If has highlighted some irregularities and put forward some suggested improvements, which we've reviewed and acted on. This has meant that we've had lower insurance premiums, which shows that this has been a good partnership," says Niels Dam.

Improved or replaced automatic fire alarms

He explains that DSB has, among other things, improved or replaced automatic fire alarms at five stations, and they have conducted a major review of Copenhagen Central Station in which they checked that all installations and structures have been implemented correctly. Sorting of waste is another practical example of an area that was highlighted, as well as the fact that the dialogue throughout the whole organisation has been enhanced.

"We've maintained a close dialogue with our colleagues in the workshop areas, where we've reviewed what constitutes a good safety culture. Of course the technical installations must be in order, but individual employees also have to be aware that they mustn't have combustible material nearby when, for example, they're standing there welding something," says Niels Dam.

Among other things, DSB has initiated a new culture programme, which aims to inform and educate employees even more in how each and every one of them should act and keep an eye on making sure that safety is the top priority as they go about their daily work.

"It's very important that we have a strong safety culture and a few cultural ambassadors, who help to make sure that we're complying with legislation and our own regulations, and that there's a common thread in the way we work with safety," says Gert Mikkelsen, Senior Vice President at DSB.

One example is waste management outside station buildings. When having combustible material in a bin and maybe a cardboard container beneath the overhang of the roof, it's not hard to imagine what might happen if a fire breaks out.

A unique opportunity

All in all, things have become more systematic and one thing DSB has done is to produce a directory of responsibilities with clear rules defining who is responsible for what.

"We've become better at streamlining the way we work at DSB. In the past, for example, different workshops had different procedures for how they organised their work. We've become very much aware that we need to define standards for the way we work in order to make sure that we have the level of safety we want to have, which also takes into account the variety of tasks carried out at the workshops," says Gert Mikkelsen.

“We’ve become better at streamlining the way we work at DSB.
Photo credit: DSB. The workshops at DSB have defined a new, common standard for the way they work.

What is DSB's focus for the future?

"It's all about preparing yourself as well as possible for the future," explains Gert Mikkelsen. And that means that DSB, like all other companies, has to undergo a process of modernisation. DSB is setting its sights on being market-oriented and the best in Europe, which brings its own demands. In DSB's case, they must build new workshops, and virtually the entire fleet of trains must be replaced. This creates good conditions to become more efficient, by such means as improving internal processes and maintaining a constant focus on customers.

"Right now, we have a unique opportunity in terms of creating new processes and taking account of the work processes we have now. There is of course a difference in the work processes from the time of the steam engines to the present, when we're bringing in electric locomotives," says Gert Mikkelsen, adding:
"It means that we can now design our infrastructure and buildings to meet the needs we have today. This will help us further improve the safety level with new workshops and a modern, uniform fleet of trains, with all the benefits this will bring to customers."

New threats on the horizon

The world is changing all the time, as does the threat profile. But which threats is DSB focusing on looking to the future?

"We're very much aware of the new threats relating to IT, cyber security and technology. We're a crucial part of the country's infrastructure, so we have to be prepared if there's someone who wants to harm us," says Gert Mikkelsen, continuing: "We saw, among other things, how big the consequences were for A.P. Møller-Mærsk, when they were hit by a cyber attack, so that's also sharpened our focus in this area."

He explains that DSB has for the first time taken out cyber insurance, and that they are working hard in general to safeguard control over their IT systems.

"We have a clear plan for what has to be done, and we've earmarked some money so that we maintain control over our safety package in this area," says Gert Mikkelsen.

Article by
Rasmus Barlag photo

Rasmus Barlag

Communications Specialist, If