Australian rail industry celebrates safety awareness day

Brett Finch, former rugby league legend and R U OK? Ambassador.

Brett Finch, former rugby league legend and R U OK? Ambassador.

The Australian and New Zealand rail industries celebrated the third annual Rail R U OK?Day on Thursday, 20 April, with celebrations across Australasia.

The Rail R U OK?Day initiative has been designed to help create a more supportive environment for the rail industry, as rail workers are sometimes exposed to trauma on the job.

The TrackSAFE Foundation has been tackling the issue by encouraging rail workers to deepen workplace conversations and help colleagues open up and support each other.

“Rail R U OK?Day has helped the rail industry proactively address suicide on our networks in an attempt to reduce the number of incidents, while at the same time mitigating the trauma caused to rail employees, families and communities,” said Bob Herbert AM, Chairman, TrackSAFE Foundation. “We strive to create healthy and resilient workplaces by empowering coworkers to support one another and continually check in, asking one simple question – ‘Are you ok?’

“We’re proud to celebrate our third annual industry-wide Rail R U OK? day. It is an important opportunity to convince workmates that they can make a real difference to someone who is struggling by having genuine conversations,” he added.

League legend and R U OK? Ambassador Brett Finch spoke to workers at the event.

“I know about the trauma and tragedy that can happen on Australian rail networks,” he said, prior to the event. “My father-in-law works on the rail and I know first-hand the life changing experiences he’s been through and the impact it has had not only on him, but also his family.

R U OK? CEO Brendan Maher says he is proud of the successful collaboration between TrackSAFE and the suicide prevention charity.

“The R U OK? ethos has really been embraced by rail networks around Australia and more recently New Zealand,” he said. “Rail workers witness some heartbreaking incidents on the job and by supporting each other everyone is better off at work and also at home.

“Rail R U OK? Day is a reminder to all rail workers to check in not just on the big day but anytime someone looks like they’re struggling.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull released a statement on the morning of R U OK?Day:

“So many Australians have been touched by the trauma of suicide – be it the loss of a friend, family member, neighbour or work colleague.

“Each death, with its devastating personal, social and economic impacts, constitutes an awful and unacceptable tragedy that leaves us wondering if we could have done more.

“Sadly, so many of you in this industry know only too well the ripple effect of suicide on the wider community. Being so often the first responders to incidents on the rail, you are well aware of the potential for severe mental, physical and emotional trauma for those involved.

“Given the stressors that rail industry staff are exposed to, it is heartening to see you take steps to create safer, stronger and more supportive workplaces, while addressing the stigma surrounding the mental health impacts of exposure to such incidents.

“This Rail R U Ok? Day I encourage everyone to reach out to colleagues who are doing it tough, to start the conversation about mental health, and to work together to save lives.

“Through coordinated efforts, let us ensure that the years ahead mark a turning point for suicide and poor mental health, as we progress towards creating a more caring and resilient society.”