Contractor beefs up mental fitness of rail staff

An innovative programme to increase the mental resilience of contractor Osborne’s rail staff has been underway at the company for six months to improve performance, individual well-being and company staff retention rates.

Osborne at work repairing the landslip at Botley

A cross section of staff have taken part in the voluntary programme so far and 6% of them found that they were highly stressed.  There has also been additional support and advice from Human Resources.

Osborne head of health, safety, environment and quality Chris Trodd brought techniques with him from the oil and gas industry where he previously worked and has created a mental resilience programme for the contractor’s rail team.

“Rail like oil and gas is a high pressure, high hazard environment,” he said. “People working in rail need to be able work well under pressure and make the right decisions.”

The voluntary programme aids the workforce and the managers, Trodd said, helping them all learn to recognise the symptoms of people who could be suffering from mental health issues. It also highlights the high pressure contracts so steps can be taken to lessen the stress staff are under and give people tools to help them manage through the issues that cause the stress.

“Stress, anxiety and depression are the main reasons why people are absent from work,” Trodd says. “This programme is about making sure our workforce are mentally as well as physically fit. Better mental resilience helps memory and sleep patterns that directly impacts on fatigue and in turn helps reduce accidents. We cover psychological (diet and exercise),  emotional (dealing with conflict) and cognitive (thinking clearly under pressure).”

Simple breathing exercises can make a big difference, Trodd said.  “We hook the groups in training up to pulse monitors so they can see the difference the exercises make as they do them.”

The benefits to the Osborne bottom line will be significant, he said. “We will have more people at work full time, staff retention goes up, it makes Osborne a nicer place to work and people are happier. We should also see a reduction in accidents caused by behavioural issues like loss of concentration, lapses and mistakes.”

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