Data regarding work-related violence points to a high prevalence in rail. An RSSB report has identified that 94.1% of front line staff experienced workplace abuse, with 25.6% experiencing physical assaults (RSSB, 2018). The most recent RMT Violence Against Railway Staff Survey revealed that 72% of its rail sector members had experienced workplace violence in the last 12 months.

The last three years have seen the rail industry collaborate to develop initiatives that bring it closer to understanding work-related violence (WRV) and trauma in rail.

What the rail industry is doing 

Data activities

The industry has developed an agreed a work-related violence definition, conceptualising it as 'any incident, in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work'. Establishing an industry definition is an important step in ensuring a better understanding the issue and consistency in how it is measured.

A report on the risk of exposure to a traumatic event and its consequences, has been published, based on data in the railway’s Safety Management and Intelligence System (SMIS). Data quality issues have prompted RSSB to create guidance for SMIS users to ensure a more accurate recording of workforce shock/trauma.
A cross-industry mental health survey will be launched in September 2020. It will explore the prevalence of mental-ill health and exposure to psychological hazards, including work-related violence and other potentially traumatic workplace events. Data from this survey will allow the industry to better understand exposure to risks and develop informed plans to manage them.

Identifying evidence-based controls

Research into the use of body-worn cameras, by the University of Cambridge and the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), demonstrated a 47% overall reduction of work-related violence on staff equipped with body-worn cameras. RSSB has commissioned a research project to identify further promising workplace interventions for the prevention and management of customer-on-staff work-related violence. The project will  interpret industry incident data from SMIS and BTP and critically review rail organisations’ existing WRV training and incident management processes.

Improving awareness and post-event chain of care

A Criminal Justice awareness programme for prosecutors regarding offending behaviour is currently being developed. It will consider the importance of appropriate sentencing in cases of work-related violence.
The second version of the Trauma Management Toolbox is now available to the industry. The toolbox contains practical tools, a checklist, templates, and other resources. These will help companies ensure staff have the support needed for recovery following work-related violence, exposure to a fatality, or other traumatic incident, that is consistent with RSSB’s Guidance on Responding to Potentially Traumatic Incidents (2019).

Strategic challenges – what industry wants to do 

To ensure the industry achieves its vision of continually reducing work-related violence and trauma, some actions are vital:

  • Processes for data collection on work-related violence and trauma need to be improved to support accurate risk assessment and intervention planning.
  • Recruitment and onboarding processes must be enhanced, helping potential employees to understand hazards and ensuring staff are prepared and equipped to manage risk.
  • Evidence regarding the prevention and reduction of workplace incidents must be used to design environmental controls. This should include considerations on platform design and management, passenger communications, and the use of body-worn cameras across the industry.
  • Organisational policies and practices must be evaluated and good practice disseminated, to ensure policies and procedures do not increase employees’ risk of work-related violence or other potentially traumatic incidents. 
  • Chain-of-care and post-event support must be reviewed, to ensure alignment with best practice guidance created by the industry, and it must be applied consistently throughout organisations. 

Where to get support 

Our website provides a range of resources on trauma support, including guidance, templates, and other materials.

There are many opportunities for you to contribute to leading health and safety on Britain’s railways.

 To influence developments in work-related violence and trauma, the industry is encouraged to work with, or join, these groups:

  • The Work-Related Violence Strategic Group: this is the lead decision making body in the area of work-related violence. The group reports to the RDG Policing and Security Group.
  • The Mental Wellbeing Subgroup: is responsible for managing the mental wellbeing components in the health and wellbeing roadmap. This includes the psychosocial consequences of work-related violence and other traumatic events. The group reports into the Rail Wellbeing Alliance. 
  • The People on Trains and Stations Risk Group: looks for new ways to reduce the risk associated with station operations.
  • The Suicide Prevention Duty Holders’ Group: aims to reduce the potential for suicide on the rail network, and the impact of suicide events on staff and customers. These efforts are driven through trauma management and support, and in relation to disruption and delay caused by fatalities.