The TrackSAFE Foundation is the harm prevention charity for Australia’s rail industry. It was established to reduce fatalities and injuries on the rail network and improve the wellbeing of the rail workforce.
Sadly, 74 per cent of fatalities, or on average 74 people each year, take their own life on the Australian rail network. In addition, there are an average of 64 attempted suicides on the heavy rail network and one on the light rail network reported to the rail regulator annually. The number of suicides and rate of suicide on the rail network has declined over the last 10 years.
Beyond the human loss or injury caused by person-train and tram collisions or near misses, incidents can cause trauma and work-related stress to rail and recovery staff involved in incidents. Safe Work Australia identifies train drivers as one of the most at-risk occupations for work-related mental disorders. For the wider community, these incidents also cause disruption and delays to hundreds of services each year, impacting customers and economic efficiency.
To reduce the number of incidents and near misses and build resilience to cope with the trauma caused by these incidents, TrackSAFE works in three areas: suicide prevention, rail safety awareness and behaviour change, and employee wellbeing, including best-practice trauma management.
TrackSAFE’s suicide prevention activities are informed by evidence and invests in new research to improve knowledge and promotes these findings to industry and governments. TrackSAFE strongly advocates to governments for fencing and other barriers to restrict access to the rail corridor as one of the most effective prevention measures. TrackSAFE’s long-term, help-seeking advertising campaign, Pause. Call. Be Heard, is promoted in higher-risk locations through outdoor media and digital geotargeting, and is delivered in partnership with Lifeline. Evaluations of this campaign have found it leads to an increase in calls to Lifeline.
Australian and international research has found that intervention by rail staff or by members of the public with someone who may be considering suicide can save lives. On World Suicide Prevention Day 2023, TrackSAFE launched a free, mobile-ready, 30-minute Suicide Awareness Training for rail workers. This training complements workplace specific training and aims to increase the skills and confidence of rail workers to identify someone who may be considering taking their life on the railway and provides guidance on how to safely intervene and move them to a better place while they wait for help. TrackSAFE has commenced the process to have this training assessed for Suicide Prevention Australia accreditation.
In June 2023, TrackSAFE launched a new Rail Industry Trauma Management Framework. The Framework serves as guide to best-practice trauma management and is a platform for rail organisations to develop standards, specifications and associated guidelines, resource materials and training to into their own systems.
2024 will mark 10 years of Rail R U OK?, with rail being early adopters of mental-health awareness and skill development in the workplace. R U OK? aligns with many peer support programs in the industry that help create a culture of meaningful interactions about mental health.