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

Electrification to Bristol Parkway takes one step closer as more upgrades completed

15/10/2018Electrification to Bristol Parkway takes one step closer as more upgrades completed

Completion of electrification of lines on the Bristol Parkway route have taken one step closer today following further upgrades by Network Rail. ... more >
KeolisAmey £5bn Wales and Borders Rail service launches today

15/10/2018KeolisAmey £5bn Wales and Borders Rail service launches today

KeolisAmey has begun operations taking over the Wales and Borders franchise today, with “transformed” services on the way for passeng... more >
Rail minister urged to back extension of Oyster and contactless payments at London airports

15/10/2018Rail minister urged to back extension of Oyster and contactless payments at London airports

London’s deputy mayor for transport Heidi Alexander has called for Jo Johnson to back the extension of contactless payments across London i... 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 East Coast franchise report tells us what we already knew: it was a bid set up to fail

18/09/2018The East Coast franchise report tells us what we already knew: it was a bid set up to fail

RTM's Jack Donnelly assesses what the Transport Committee's latest report on the VTEC franchise means for the industry as a whole “Even now, there is no concrete plan, nor timescales, for the interim operator of this franchise. From our inquiry, we cannot be sure, and cannot reassure passengers or public, that the arrangements ... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >


Northern Powerhouse Rail: The need for change

18/09/2018Northern Powerhouse Rail: The need for change

Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) will be transformational for the north – it will change the way people live, work, and play. It will rebalan... more >
Innovation through people and technology

18/09/2018Innovation through people and technology

Ian Prosser, HM chief inspector of railways and director of railway safety at the ORR, picks out the key industry challenges to focus on based on... more >
Why we all must mind the gap

18/09/2018Why we all must mind the gap

Clair Mowbray, chief executive of the National College for High Speed Rail (NCHSR), explains how we can all ensure the UK’s next generation... more >
3D printing: from virtual to real

11/09/20183D printing: from virtual to real

Like so many other technological advancements, 3D printing has moved from being the stuff of science fiction, through niche industrial applicatio... more >

rail industry focus

View all News


Going global: an interview with Network Rail’s Leevan Finney

29/08/2018Going global: an interview with Network Rail’s Leevan Finney

RTM’s Jack Donnelly sat down with one of the leading minds behind Network Rail’s most advanced and innovative rail maintenance techno... more >