So, what’s all the fuss about Non-technical Skills (NTS)?


The term ‘Non-technical skills’ has become such common parlance in the rail industry that people just talk of ‘NTS’ now, without even giving a second thought to whether people know what the acronym means.  So, what are NTS and why are they so important?

Non-technical skills (NTS) are the interpersonal or ‘soft’ skills like collaboration, communication, leadership, decision making, situational awareness and teamwork that we all use every day, but in a work situation are critical to getting a job done safely and efficiently.

In contrast, technical skills are those which enable us, for example, to make something, operate a machine, fix an engine or carry out a technical task.

Because we use NTS in our daily lives, and historically haven’t received training on how to develop them, NTS haven’t always been given the same status or kudos as their technical counterparts.  However, most industries are waking up to how critical NTS are to overall system safety and efficient and effective business operations.

Let’s consider an example… at short notice a rail track signaller needs to change a green light to red.  The signaller is technically adept and makes the physical change in light status without error.  However, the signaller also needs to warn the train driver that the signal has changed using a radio call.  This conversation between the signaller and driver has become safety critical.

The signaller needs to communicate – lucidly and concisely – that a light on the drivers’ route has unexpectedly changed.  It requires audible clear speech, as well as words that the driver understands; it should also involve a simple check that the driver has understood before finishing the call.  If the communication is inadequate then it creates a real risk that the driver is unsure or unaware of the imminent red signal, giving them less time to brake and possibly causing them to pass a signal at danger.

Acknowledging the importance of NTS, we’ve developed a programme for Network Rail to train their signallers in eight key NTS that they need to do their jobs safely.  We’ve also created a suite of training modules for RSSB on safety critical communications for the whole rail industry to benefit from.

So, what are the key NTS in your job or industry?  Which ones are the most critical to safety?  How does your company ensure everyone has those skills?

Campaign Success

Following a low-cost high-impact campaign, South Bucks District Council have refused the application to build Lynch Hill Enterprise Academy on Green Belt land.

The Save Our Green Belt campaign aimed to raise awareness of the issue and galvanise local opinion. Lucid developed a campaign strategy, defining key messages and low-cost communication channels. We developed a campaign logo and designed a provocative leaflet of which 4000 were distributed in the local area.

The campaign resulted in an over 1000 signature petition, several letters to local MPs and Councillors, and over 240 written objections to the planning application. The application to build the school in Farnham Lane was rejected on 11 different accounts. The school governors are now seeking an alternative site for development.

Save Our Green Belt Campaign

GreenBeltNewsLucid have developed the communications strategy, logo, and campaign leaflet for the South Bucks Save Our Green Belt campaign.

The primary objective of the campaign is to prevent the development of a secondary school on Green Belt land. The campaign aims to raise a level of concern whereby all local residents of Slough and South Bucks object to the development and take action against it.

Lucid identified the key messages of the campaign and from these developed the communications strategy. We designed the leaflet around the slogan ‘Don’t Take a Bite Out of Our Green Belt’.

Four thousand leaflets have been distributed in the area. They promote the Facebook group (over 200 members), petition (900 signatures), and encourage residents to write objection letters to their MP and to the council planning department.

Network Rail Level Crossing Guidance

CrossingGuidanceLucid have designed and produced a multi-media guide for using level crossings safely: a web based Level Crossings Guidance product and supporting PDFs.

The improved guidance helps support Network Rail’s strategy to decrease level crossing risk by 33%. Network Rail have adopted a new approach to level crossing guidance as a result of research that shows users do not differentiate between different types of crossings. The new guidance informs users how to use crossings safely, understand the protection measures and how to interact with them. The guidance will be ‘badged’ by three groups: Network Rail, ORR and HRA.

Lucid developed the interactive guidance and supporting PDFs for four different types of user depending on their mode of transport (vehicle, foot, cyclist, horse). The guidance focuses on the perspective of the user and associated risks to deliver specific information for the safe use of level crossings.

Awards Entry for Thales

thalesLucid have been commissioned to design and manage Thales‘ entry into The National Rail Awards 2013. Thales will enter the Thales/Network Rail Intelligent Infrastructure Programme (IIP) into the award for innovation.

The French multinational company, Thales, design and build electrical systems, providing services for aerospace, defence, transportation and security markets. The IIP is a complex amalgam of technology, process development and cultural change which offers improved network availability and reduced train delays. Thales’ entry into the annual National Rail Awards is an excellent opportunity to raise the profile of the company and market their services.

Lucid will manage the submission process and craft the award entry. This will involve interviewing key members of the Thales team, as well as key customers from Network Rail. Identifying the key engineering contributions made to the IIP will enable Lucid to maximise Thales’ chance of winning an award.