Posted Monday 28 March 2022
Psychology experts at Kingston University are exploring why workers in the rail construction industry have been reporting higher than average levels of mental ill health, with a view to identifying what help and support may be required to address the issue.
A survey released by the Rail Safety and Standards Board last year found that more than four in 10 of rail workers questioned met the criteria for a clinical health condition. Higher levels of depression, anxiety and PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) were reported, compared to the general population, during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Kingston University researchers will examine the extent and causes of stress and will give recommendations for interventions to enhance employee understanding of mental health, how to provide further support for those seeking help, as well as reducing stigma.
The study will be led by senior psychology lecturer Dr Georgia Butler, who said employees in rail construction are potentially at greater risk from poor mental health because of antisocial working patterns and the nature of the environments they work in. "Although there has been real progress in mental health research within the construction industry in general, there remains a lack of insight around the problems facing those working in specialist subsectors of the industry, such as rail, where workers keep irregular hours," Dr Butler said.
"Major works are carried out overnight and on Bank Holidays, which puts pressure on management and their teams to work unsociable hours and to tight, often highly consequential deadlines. "My hope is that this work will help the industry reduce stress on its workers, identify what help is needed and how this support can be accessed. This will not only improve working conditions but also help improve productivity."
The project is the winner of B&CE's Charitable Trust's £25,000 Occupational Health Research Award, which will enable Dr Butler and her team to begin its research.
Nicola Sinclair, head of the B&CE Charitable Trust, said the Trustees made the award as they could see the potential benefits the study could bring to a key industry and to those who work within it. "The Charitable Trust is committed to improving the working lives of all those who work in construction, which is why we are delighted to be able to support this excellent research project," she added.