Responding to Traumatic Incidents in Rail

Information on recovering from a potentially traumatic incident, where to go for support and more information.

PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events which we struggle to processor make sense of. It can affect memory, concentration, sleep, and social interactions, all of which could impact someone in the workplace. PTSD is a treatable condition.

Each year there are over 200 suicides on the national rail network. Many staff are also affected by events involving work-related violence. Rail workers who witness a fatality, or other traumatic event, can suffer from PTSD. Wider repercussions can include time off work, impaired performance, and litigation.

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 a 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. Companies who employ staff who may be exposed to such events are encouraged to have positive support systems in place but are warned that intervention must not be too immediate. The industry 'Journey to Recovery' and 'Back on Track' booklets can also provide important advice and support for staff who have been involved in a traumatic event. Copies of these booklets can be ordered by emailing

Many rail companies are ‘ahead of the game’ in terms of supporting staff but can learn from other organisations like the Royal Marines, that have developed an evidence-based Trauma Risk Management (TRiM) scheme.  Other opportunities for actively managing post-trauma support include early intervention for those who develop adverse reactions and specific interventions such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).  Rail organisations should work closely with Trade Unions to develop policies in this area.

It’s useful to be able to separate the facts from the myths (registered document) when looking at mental health. The video below looks at the causes and symptoms of PTSD which some viewers may find distressing.

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