Coping with trauma - rail leads the way

By: Tamara Whitsed

The truck industry could learn a lot from rail about supporting drivers after workplace trauma.


When Allan Barden began driving trains in the 1980s there was little support after traumatic incidents on the tracks.

"You were virtually on your own without any assistance," says Barden, who experienced several traumatic incidents involving pedestrians during his years as a train driver.

But much has changed since then.

Today Barden is assistant national secretary of the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) and he is proud of what the union has achieved for rail employees.

The RTBU has persuaded rail companies across Australia to implement employee assistance programs (EAPs) and make appropriate counselling and treatment available to employees.

"And we got them inbuilt into enterprise agreements," Barden says.

He says the agreements ensure train drivers don’t suffer any loss of wages while they are receiving counselling and support after a traumatic incident. They can receive paid leave until a health professional says they are ready to return to work.

Barden says it is rewarding to see the positive results the new approach to trauma has had across the rail industry since the 1990s.

He is also proud that the rail industry has united to form TrackSafe Foundation. With a membership including rail operators, track owners, network managers, suppliers, industry bodies and unions, TrackSafe represents a united approach to preventing trauma and supporting affected rail workers.

"I would love to see the road industry come to our standard in this matter," Barden says.

Owner//Driver has discovered the quality of support truck drivers receive after traumatic incidents on the road depends largely on which company they work for.

Some truck companies have excellent employee assistance programs. But most – especially the smaller companies – are ill-equipped to support drivers after a traumatic incident.

Owner-drivers face added challenges because of the financial pressure to keep driving.

In the September issue of Owner//Driver two truck drivers explain how post traumatic stress is affecting their health, careers and finances.

We talk to an expert from the Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health and we discover that when it comes to addressing workplace trauma, the truck industry could learn a lot from rail.

For help or information talk to your local GP or health professional or contact Lifeline 13 11 14; MensLine Australia1300 78 99 78; Beyondblue support service1300 22 4636; 1300 DRIVER (1300 374 837); or Trans-Help Foundation 1300 787 996.

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