COSS recertification changing for Network Rail colleagues

Oct. 15, 2020

Improvements to recertification for Controller of Site Safety competence


Caption: Delegate experiencing virtual reality scenarios.

A COSS is essential for the planning and implementation of the Safe Work Pack (SWP) to keep teams safe. Around 13,000 colleagues hold a COSS competency which must be renewed every two years. Currently, COSS recertification for Network Rail colleagues is done by completing a Skills Assessment Scheme exam. The new training means this will change.

        Going virtual:

For a more robust recertification method, and to bring it in line with the five-day virtual reality COSS training that launched in July 2019​, the new two-day recertification course has been created with an emphasis on interactive and immersive experience.

Using virtual reality (VR) headsets and safety scenarios in a virtual railway setting, colleagues can demonstrate their knowledge in a safe environment and there is a renewed focus on the rigorous assessment of safe behaviours and leadership skills. The use of immersive VR technology is designed to increase engagement, help colleagues retain information for use on site and ultimately improve safety and operational performance.

Colleagues with a COSS competence due to expire after 1 January will be automatically booked onto the new recertification course by their resourcing teams. The recertification will be valid for two years.

        Home safe every day:

Paul Brady, principal workforce safety specialist, Technical Authority, said, “A COSS needs to be an industry leader, promoting safety for the benefit of our workforce. To be on the side of passengers and freight users, this is paramount.

"The standard of a Network Rail COSS must be the best on the network and this new method of recertification will go a long way to making certain our COSS colleagues are equipped with the skills and behaviours to champion safe working every day.  

“One safety incident is too many. The move to a VR recertification course is a step we can take to improve safety on the network – it’s our duty to do all we can to make certain that colleagues and passengers get home safely.”

        Safety first:

Martin Jones, head of training delivery, Route Services, added: “A COSS has the safety of their team in their hands, so it’s important that the recertification method echoes this message, bringing colleagues up to date with best practice and enabling them to demonstrate the appropriate behaviours in high-risk scenarios. 

“Thanks to a collaborative effort from the Training team, competence authorities, union reps and invaluable input from our route customers, in the new year we will be ready to deliver a more robust, engaging and impactful method of COSS recertification that puts safety first.”

The Skills Assessment Scheme (SAS) rail exam will still be available for Level 2 COSS' looking to progress to Level 3 and for COSS trainers to recertify their competence. 

For those external to Network Rail there is no change to the existing recertification. The below list summarises the recertification process for those who are internal and external to Network Rail:

Network Rail

  • On 1 January 2021, the COSS recertification method is moving from SAS to a two-day course. This means colleagues undertaking the recert will need to be released from their rotas for the duration.
  • The recert will include the option for learners to use a virtual reality (VR) headset to experience track scenarios in a safe environment.
  • The competence remains valid for two years.
  • Assessments remain the responsibility of the customer for any colleague who needs to recertify up to and including 31 December 2020.
  • The current SAS COSS recertification method will be switched off on 1 January 2021, including rail exams.
  • Colleagues who no longer wish to hold the COSS competence should speak to their manager to have the competence ended.


  • On 1 January 2021, Industry Training companies will be required to use the new recertification material.
  • On 6 October a briefing session was delivered to Industry Training companies and a recording is available via NSAR. The material new training material has been shared with Industry Training companies and has been created to keep in line with the current two-day course, meaning no schedules will need to change.
  • The recert will include the option for learners to use a virtual reality (VR) headset to experience track scenarios in a safe environment.
  • The competence remains valid for two years.