Breaking down mental health barriers

Chris LangerChris Langer, scheme intelligence manager at CIRAS, on the link between mental health, safety and confidential reporting.

When the CIRAS hotline rings, and we speak to a reporter with a safety concern, very often much of what they say is underpinned by an anxious state of mind that may stretch far beyond their presenting concern. 

In other words, they may be anxious that if their safety concern is left unaddressed it will affect their mental health. It is not uncommon for a reporter to feel they may be involved in an accident. For example, it could be driving home from a work site after being awake for more than 24 hours that makes them afraid or working without having received a proper safety briefing. 

It is natural to be afraid in these circumstances. If we don’t feel safe, we are unlikely to feel any sense of wellbeing. The potential for an accident at work will weigh heavily on our reporters’ minds – and with good reason. Their motivation to report to CIRAS is to protect themselves and their colleagues from injury, both physically and psychologically. 

The concern with mental health issues can, however, be more than just the psychological background to a safety concern. Recently, we have taken reports which highlight the perceived lack of organisational support for mental health issues.  Sometimes, it is difficult to tease out what the reason is for this perception. Some organisations have a range of support options for their employees. And yet, an employee may still feel anxious, depressed or isolated. It is in everyone’s interests to see individuals fully engaged and working as safely as possible, whatever the perceived causes of a lack of support. 

Offering effective organisational support is only the first stage. The second stage requires a kind of reaching out from both the employer and employee. This can bridge the gap between both parties to ensure that an individual not only knows where help can be received, but can make the connection to receive it. Asking for help is not as easy as it may appear, especially if you are suffering or are in distress in the first place. 

We will be discussing the background to these issues, and possible solutions, in an IOSH webinar called ‘The Link between Mental Health, Safety and Confidential Reporting’. The webinar will be held on Wednesday 19 October, starting at 12.30pm. I will be presenting alongside Aimee Skelly-Burgess, Occupational Health and Safety Advisor, at CIRAS. It is free to attend, but you will need to register online in order to book onto the event. You will be sent an email with all of the necessary details once you have registered. We hope you can join us.

We are aiming to break down the stigma of mental health in the transport industry. We will be covering following.

  • Statistics on mental health
  • The consequences of suffering from stress and anxiety
  • Potential negative effects on performance at work
  • Potential solutions, such as mindfulness exercises and talking to external parties

To register for the webinar, click here.

Have you got a story to tell? Would you like to become an RTM columnist? If so, click here.


Colin Murray   14/10/2016 at 13:55

from a track worker safety point of view, not a sensible photo to use, several operational rules being broken

Add your comment


rail technology magazine tv

more videos >

latest rail news

Government’s role in new passenger-centric railway ‘will have to change’, says Williams Review lead

21/03/2019Government’s role in new passenger-centric railway ‘will have to change’, says Williams Review lead

The man leading the Williams Rail Review has warned that the government’s role in the UK railways “will have to change” as the ... more >
Government promises to look ‘very carefully’ at £218m bid for second Chelmsford station

21/03/2019Government promises to look ‘very carefully’ at £218m bid for second Chelmsford station

The government will look “very carefully” at a £218m funding bid for a new railway station in Chelmsford, Theresa May has said.... more >
New plans for major improvements to York station submitted in ‘long-overdue masterplan’

21/03/2019New plans for major improvements to York station submitted in ‘long-overdue masterplan’

Plans to make major changes to York railway station have been submitted in a “long-overdue” masterplan. The £23.5m proposa... more >

editor's comment

23/01/2018Out with the old...

Despite a few disappointing policy announcements, especially for the electrification aficionados amongst us, 2017 was, like Darren Caplan writes on page 20, a year generally marked by positive news for the rail industry. We polished off the iconic Ordsall Chord (p32), hit some solid milestones on Thameslink (p40), progressed on ambitious rolling stock orders (p16), and finally started moving forward on HS2 (p14) ‒ paving the way for a New Ye... read more >

last word

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

This summer, Arriva Group's CrossCountry and the Scout Association joined to launch a new partnership to promote rail safety among young people. Chris Leech MBE, business community manager at the... more > more last word articles >

'the sleepers' daily blog

The West Midlands 30-year strategy

19/03/2019The West Midlands 30-year strategy

Malcolm Holmes, executive director of West Midlands Rail Executive (WMRE), outlines the West Midlands Rail Investment Strategy 2018-2047. The West Midlands Rail Executive was formed three years ago to give local authorities a direct influence over the award of the region’s main rail franchise. Working with the Department for Transpo... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >


26-30 Railcard: taking advantage of opportunities

19/03/201926-30 Railcard: taking advantage of opportunities

After a nine-month national trial, the rail industry launched its seventh National Railcard for 26-30-year-olds on 2 January 2019. Rail Delivery ... more >
Caledonian Sleeper: a railway icon re-imagined

19/03/2019Caledonian Sleeper: a railway icon re-imagined

The world-renowned Caledonian Sleeper, due to begin operations at the end of spring 2019, completed its first Scotland to London journey earlier ... more >
East West Rail: the next steps

19/03/2019East West Rail: the next steps

In January, five route options for the central section of East West Rail were published as part of a public consultation on the next phase of the... more >
Rail's role in transit-orientated developments

19/03/2019Rail's role in transit-orientated developments

Jonathan Bray, director at the Urban Transport Group (UTG), argues that transit-oriented developments are the future – and that rail has a ... more >

rail industry focus

View all News


Women in rail - is the industry on the right track?

12/03/2019Women in rail - is the industry on the right track?

RTM sits down with Samantha Smith, sole female member of the TransPennine Route Upgrade Alliance Leadership Team, to find out more about encourag... more >