Railway workers ‘did not receive timely advice’ on pandemic response

According to a study by the University of Strathclyde, only half of railway workers believe they have received timely advice for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic at work.

Nearly 85% of the 850 respondents to the researchers’ survey also faced issues with social distancing while at work, while a quarter had experienced a deterioration in their mental health and the same percentage felt they had lacked support at work. work.

Workers also raised concerns about loss of social support, risk and uncertainty, and work-life imbalance.

However, the survey also found indications that teams have an important role to play in addressing concerns and perceived risks by railway workers associated with COVID-19. A small number of respondents also saw positive changes, in areas such as increased time spent with family, outdoor exercise and beneficial impact on the environment – among those who were able to work from home .

The study concludes that building a resilient railway workforce requires paying attention to the mental well-being of staff and ensuring that support systems are robust and accessible.

The survey was conducted between December 2020 and March 2021, partly coinciding with a period of nationwide lockdown in the UK. The research paper was published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Dr Nicola Cogan, of Strathclyde School of Psychological and Health Sciences, led the study. She said: “The pandemic has presented significant mental and physical strain for many groups of workers. Essential workers, like those on the railways, have had to continue carrying out their daily duties during the pandemic, while taking on significant challenges and strains related to increased work demands.

“Railway workers were already potentially exposed to stressful situations, such as accidents and assaults, but were also at high risk of COVID-19, due to frequent contact with commuters.

“Our results indicate that a large number of railroad workers perceive high levels of risk and burnout related to COVID-19 stressors; this indicates the importance of workplace support and well-being during times of high perceived risk.

Almost 80% of survey respondents were men and just under two-thirds were train drivers, while just over one in ten had pre-existing physical or mental health conditions.

One of the researchers, Dr Liza Morton, who was in Strathclyde at the time of the research, is now at Glasgow Caledonian University.

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