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Uncovering rail construction workers' mental health issues

19 April 2022

A NEW academic study with the objective of highlighting the mental health of rail construction workers has been given vital funding by B&CE’s Charitable Trust.

The Kingston University project is this year’s winner of the Trust’s £25,000 Occupational Health Research Award and this funding will enable the team to begin its research in the coming months. The award judges were impressed by the project’s stated aim of assessing both the extent and causes of stress for those who work across the rail construction industry. A survey last year by the Rail Safety and Standards Board found that more than four in 10 (43%) of those questioned met the criteria for a clinical health condition, with higher levels of depression, anxiety and PTSD compared to the general population during the pandemic.

The research will also provide recommendations for interventions to enhance employee understanding of their own mental health, support further those seeking help, as well as reducing stigma.

It will be led by senior psychology lecturer Dr Georgia Butler, who says people working 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.

She said, “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.  Because major works are carried out overnight and Bank Holidays, this 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.”

Nicola Sinclair, head of the B&CE Charitable Trust said, “The Trustees were very impressed with Dr Butler’s application as they can see that there are, potentially, very real benefits 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.”