Front line staff may be vulnerable to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or other mental ill-health conditions 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. PTSD is a treatable condition. In 2019, 296 members of the public died on the railway. RSSB surveyed 700 front line staff and found nearly 95% had experienced workplace abuse in 2018. Over 25% had experienced physical assaults and 30% reported being exposed to verbal abuse on a daily basis.

Without support, following a potentially traumatic incident, there may be an increased risk not just to the individual but also can be implications for the undertaking of safety-critical tasks. Employees who feel supported in the workplace following a traumatic event - particularly those who receive immediate practical support - experience reduced symptoms after three months and reduced absence over one year. Structured trauma management procedures offer a safe response to trauma; and post-trauma support protocols are an effective way to communicate information about the symptoms of PTSD to employees and signpost sources of support. 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 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 staff supported.’

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 (registered document). There are more information and resources available here.
 
Watch this short video to find out how our Trauma Management Toolbox can help you.