A recent report by the Samaritans found that in 2018 there were 6,859 suicides in the UK, an increase of 11.8% on the previous year. The statistics show that 4.5% of suicides take place on the railway within the UK, meaning that more than ever this problem needs to be urgently addressed. World Suicide Prevention Day is an annual awareness day, focussed on de-stigmatising the perceptions surrounding suicide, providing support to those who need it and inevitably trying to save lives.
Rail suicide prevention has been a huge focus in the UK over the last few years, with nationwide campaigns like the Samaritans ‘Small Talk Saves Lives’. Initially, this saw a positive impact on UK figures, but most recent statistics show that in 2017/2018 rail suicides rose to 249 occurrences.
There can be many factors that can contribute to someone dying from suicide, these can include; mental health problems, deprivation, unemployment and social deprivation. RSS Infrastructure Ltd (RSSI), a leading supplier of infrastructure services and INFRA Skills Ltd, the UK’s premier safety critical and non-safety critical training provider, are putting initiatives in place to try and reduce the negative impact a working environment can have on a person. High levels of fatigue from working long hours can result in lower standards of performance and safety, as well as having an effect on the individual’s wellbeing. RSSI have a fatigue monitoring system in place, which commences during the rostering process, where the in-house CRM is used to calculate the travel time to and from site, shift duration and work type. Any concerns with travel exceedance or shift duration (14 hours from door to door) are automatically flagged ensuring that workers cannot be rostered to shifts or projects unless adequate measures, such as local accommodation, are put in place to ensure that ‘Everyone [returns] home safe, everyday”.
Auctus Management Group Ltd’s (AMG) HSQE department has also joined forces with Oxford University, Liminal Space, Welcome Trust and Network Rail to better understand the correlation between sleep and fatigue. This project will research different sleep monitoring devices, nutrition and hydration and effects of shift work on workers and families.
RSSI have taken precautions to make the transportation of workers to the site safer, becoming one of the first companies in the rail sector to utilise a specialist Driver Awareness Warning System (DAWS). The warning system is a dash-mounted device and focuses on the driver’s retina and measures their ‘blinking pattern’ sounding audible warnings if signs of drowsiness, fatigue and/or attention is diverted from the road.
Within the ‘INFRA Family’ a Wellbeing Network has been established, with volunteers within the companies attending a Mental Health First Aid course. This course offered an in-depth introduction to the onset, nature and treatment of mental ill health, as well as providing an enhanced knowledge of the range of support, therapies and self-help strategies available. By the end of the two-day course the learners had also developed first aid skills for supporting people experiencing mental distress prior to professional involvement, and became part of a group of ‘Wellbeing Champions’ within the business. The ‘Champions’ meet regularly to discuss initiatives, awareness and support, and now have the knowledge and confidence to provide the first means of support to anyone suffering from mental ill health. They are also responsible for driving the wellbeing message across the workforce and highlighting any concerns.
Since focusing heavily on their Health and Wellbeing strategies, AMG noticed a distinct shortage in the amount of quality, factual information available for workers and their families. With social media being a popular platform for communication, it became apparent that some of the information and images are not always correct. For this reason, AMG created A.D.V.I.C.E, meaning ‘A Dedicated Voice for Inclusive Collaboration by Everyone’. A number of associates within the rail and construction sector, pooling resources together to reach a wider audience. Each company takes it in turn throughout the year to produce information and instruction on topics that directly informs front line workers. An example of some of the topics covered are; gambling addiction, cervical cancer and Musculoskeletal Health, which is all sent out under the A.D.V.I.C.E banner.
The company has also developed a Traumatic Incident Plan which ensures that sufficient resources are available to all employees to raise awareness of the normal reaction to a potentially traumatic incident, and to embed principles of watchful waiting throughout the business. The support network for this incident plan will include their wellbeing champions and safety council.
Although public interventions of rail suicides have increased by 20%, the amount of rail suicides is still staggeringly high and this is why support mechanisms such as RSS’s Traumatic Incident Plan and Wellbeing Network, are aiding the nationwide campaign to reduce the number of premature deaths by suicide.
For more information, or for a safe way to seek advice there are many helplines available.
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