The Sentinel Scheme
The Sentinel card is a smartcard that is to be swiped at the start of every shift by the Controller of Site Safety (COSS) to ensure that all workers who work on or near the railway are permitted to do so. Without it, you will not be allowed to work on the railway.
The Sentinel card contains and is used to check the following information:
- Your ID
- You have a valid Sponsor
- You hold the necessary competences to carry out the work that will be performed
- You have a valid Personal Track Safety (PTS) or Industry Common Induction (ICI) competence
- You have a valid medical and drugs and alcohol record
If you’ve decided you’re interested in working on the railway, establishing your Sentinel Primary Sponsor will be your first step. As Sentinel cards are not available to the general public, you’ll need a Sponsor to purchase one for you on your behalf. A Sponsor is usually your new employer or you can be sponsored by a rail recruitment provider. Some recruitment agencies may charge you an up-front fee to cover this initial cost as the process includes checking your ID and a formal railway medical.
Once you have a Sponsor, they’ll need to ensure you’ve successfully completed the necessary safety training courses (Personal Track Safety) or Industry Common Induction (ICI) before ordering your Sentinel smartcard. Until you are in possession of a valid Sentinel card you cannot work on the railway.
Applying for Your Sentinel Card
To order your Sentinel card, your Sponsor will need the following information from you:
- Full name
- Current and valid photograph (for guidance, please check these industry guidelines)
- Valid Personal Track Safety (PTS) competence to work trackside or Industry Common Induction (ICI) competence to work non-trackside
- Valid medical record (pass)
- Valid drugs and alcohol record (pass)
- Eligibility to work in the UK
Once ordered, your Sentinel card should arrive within eleven working days and you must present it to the Controller of Site Safety (COSS) every time you work on the railway. Always have it with you as having no card = no work.
The Sentinel system is also used by London Underground, but their competences are not valid for Network Rail and those of NR are not valid for LU. Merely being in possession of a Sentinel card doesn’t guarantee you access to anything.
Additional Sentinel card information
Depending upon your medical level, some additional icons may appear on your card.
Mr Butterfield and card images (c) Network Rail Training
As a new starter, your Sentinel record (not your card) will have a green square next to your PTS entry. This is to indicate to the COSS that you are a new starter to the industry and that particular care needs to be taken with you. In addition, this also means that you must be wearing a blue hard hat. This marker and requirement will remain in place until your sponsor decides that you have gained sufficient on-site experience and knowledge, at which point you will be taken out the “Learning Support” status, removing both the green square from your record and the need for you to wear a blue hard hat.
Whilst there is no set time frame for the removal of Learning Support status, it must be done before you are due for your PTS Recertification (two years).