Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Represents a Real Risk for Rail Staff

Are you fully equipped to tackle trauma in your organisation?
Frontline staff are susceptible to Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after witnessing accidents, injuries and near misses, or being the victim of verbal or physical abuse. PTSD can develop after experiencing a traumatic event. The event is often relived through nightmares and flashbacks and may result in the person experiencing day-to-day problems such as difficulties sleeping, concentrating and interacting socially. In 2019, 296 members of the public died on the railway—271 of these were suicides or suspected suicides and the remainder involved trespassers, level-crossing users and people on trains and stations.

RSSB surveyed 700 front line staff and found nearly 95% had experienced workplace abuse in 2018. Additionally, over 25% had experienced physical assaults and 30% claimed being exposed to verbal abuse on a daily basis.

The impact of witnessing and experiencing events like this can be detrimental and increase the risk of developing mental wellbeing issues including PTSD, depression and anxiety. Staff may need time off work, as well as access to evidence-based treatment, to recover both physically and mentally. Without support, following a potentially traumatic incident, there may be an increased risk not just to the individual but also to others. This is particularly vital in the case of staff who undertake safety-critical tasks.

Forward-thinking rail companies have seen the benefits of treating mental wellbeing difficulties like an occupational hazard, implementing specific, targeted support and interventions to protect their staff. 

The rail industry is working to ensure it is easier for staff to recognise symptoms of poor mental health themselves and that they feel comfortable in asking for support.

RSSB’s Mental Wellbeing Specialist, Michelle O’Sullivan, explains: ‘Everyone will respond to a traumatic experience differently. For some, returning to work shortly after the incident may feel right, for others more time and targeted support may be needed. With access to the right treatment and support, the majority will recover and be able to return to work. PTSD is a medical condition which changes the individual’s brain chemistry, leaving people struggling to process traumatic events. It can affect memory, concentration, sleep and social interactions, all of which could impact someone in the workplace. But PTSD is a treatable condition and there are steps companies can take to ensure cases can be detected and remedied sensitively.’

We have created a Trauma Management Toolbox that contains practical tools, checklists, templates and resources to support companies to review and improve their trauma pathway, consistent with RSSB’s trauma guidance. 

Watch this short video to find out how our Trauma Management Toolbox can help you.

Haven’t found what you’re looking for?
Get in touch with our expert for more information.
Michelle O'Sullivan
Tel: 020 3142 5353
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