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

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