A best practice framework for rail trauma

TrackSAFE and Phoenix Australia have been collaborating to ensure the mental health of rail industry workers is supported by best practice trauma management approaches. The resulting national trauma management framework and flexibly delivered training program have received industry-wide endorsement.


When formed in 2012, the TrackSAFE Foundation had a number of key goals – one of which was to improve the trauma support offered across the Australian rail industry. Collisions, injuries and fatalities on the country’s rail network (through suicide, reckless behaviour and human error) take a very real toll on the mental health of rail employees.


In collaboration with 12 rail organisations from Australia and New Zealand, including passenger and freight operators and unions, TrackSAFE developed a national trauma management framework.


“We wanted a best practice model to support those employees impacted by an incident at work,” explains Naomi Frauenfelder, Executive Director TrackSAFE Foundation. “Trauma is a major concern for the rail industry and the effects of suicide, for example, on drivers can be severe and lasting.

“We engaged Phoenix Australia, the national centre for posttraumatic mental health, to ensure that we met our goal of developing a best practice rail industry trauma framework,” says Naomi. The framework developed provides a guide to best practice approaches for all aspects of trauma management from pre-incident preparedness, through to the event itself and then responses after the incident.

Naomi Frauenfelder, Executive Director TrackSAFE Foundation


To support the implementation of the framework Phoenix Australia have also developed a staff trauma awareness video, Back on Track after Trauma, and two training programs to help employees build resilience skills and learn how to support others after a potentially traumatic event.


“Many Australian rail organisations now use the framework to manage potentially traumatic events, and they’ve been exceptionally impressed by the quality of the materials and the training,” says Naomi. “Working with Phoenix Australia since the Foundation began seven years ago has been a valuable and effective process. Communication is always clear and the resources are of an extremely high quality and very well received by the industry. I can’t recommend Phoenix Australia any more highly, they really are leaders in this space”


TrackSAFE and Phoenix Australia continue to work together and are currently developing e-learning tools to create flexibility in training options. Naomi says ongoing improvements are needed to continue to protect and support rail industry workers affected by trauma.


“Our current priority is to further develop the e-learning training and ensure that everyone is receiving the right training and support. We also need to provide industry with further practical and relevant resources, and evaluate all the work that has already been done,” says Naomi.


Associate Professor Andrea Phelps, Deputy Director of Phoenix Australia, has led the work alongside TrackSAFE and says that, “It has been a privilege to work with TrackSAFE to assist them in reaching their goal of best practice trauma management across this diverse industry. Naomi, TrackSAFE and its Board of Directors take very seriously their duty of care to protect the mental health of employees within the industry – people who love their job, but can unfortunately, be exposed to potentially traumatic events in their day-to-day duties”.


TrackSAFE and Phoenix Australia are proud of their seven year-long collaboration which works to create the right support systems within rail organisations while also building positive internal cultures and attitudes towards those effected by the very real events and challenges they are faced with. Both organisations look forward to continuing such an important partnership and an ongoing commitment to ensure all rail employees go to work and arrive home safely.