Data regarding work-related violence points to a high prevalence in rail. An RSSB report (available to members) 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 members in front line transport roles have 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 towards a better understanding of 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 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 was run during the last quarter of 2020. It explored 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. Results should be available in the first half of 2021.

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, which should be published in June 2021, 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.