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Research slated for causes, remedies to railway suicide
Published: July 21, 2008
Source: Canadian Occupational Health & Safety News
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Transport Canada and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in the United States are partnering up to research the prevalence of suicide on railways and possible countermeasures.

Noting that suicides can take a heavy toll on the mental health of railway staff, the two organizations have agreed to undertake the comprehensive study, which is to be completed within five years. The research will be carried out by a third party consultant.

Jean Riverin, a Transport Canada spokesman, says the project aims to provide "a clearer picture of the prevalence and also the causal factors of suicides on railway rights of way." It will recommend "effective, socially-based measures" to reduce incidences of suicide and it will "identify strategies to mitigate the negative impacts of these suicides on railway staff."

No suicide incidents in particular have prompted the study, he says. Rather, Transport Canada and the FRA have identified the topic as an area where comprehensive information is lacking.

"The potential for good to come out of this is significant," says Roger Cameron, spokesman for the Railway Association of Canada, which includes large and small railway companies across the country.

"There is not a clear understanding of just how extensive the suicide issue is," Cameron says, adding there are indications that suicides might account for half of all deaths on railway property.

The number of collisions between trespassers and trains has fluctuated over the years, but fell from a high of 127 in 1996 to 91 in 2006. Of the 91 collisions, 58 resulted in deaths and 27 in serious injuries, according to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.

The effects of a collision on a train engineer and other rail workers can be significant. "It has an impact, there's no question about it. It can be very stressful," Cameron says, noting that collisions may force an employee to miss time from work, which is something railway companies encourage as part of their set procedures for collisions.


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