Rail industry news (Australia, New Zealand)

Rail R U OK? A major success again

This year the industry celebrated the 10th year of Rail R U OK? Day, a day on the rail calendar to show support for those struggling with their mental health.

Thursday, 18 April 2024 marked the 10th anniversary of Rail R U OK?, an initiative dedicated to building a supportive workplace culture where colleagues look out for each other every day of the year.

Rail was the first sector to have its own dedicated R U OK? Day and this year, the TrackSAFE Foundation and R U OK? called on the rail industry to bring their teams together for a workplace event, focusing on this year’s theme, ‘R U OK? I’m Here to Hear.’ And no surprises, the rail industry responded.

The day saw hundreds of organisations and more than 120,000 rail workers coming together, connecting and sharing experiences of when support has helped during tough times. Events on the day also helped build confidence to have a conversation and the value of making space to really listen.

Caroline Wilkie (left) from the ARA attended an event in Queensland. IMAGES: TrackSafe

Research shows the initiative successfully motivates individuals to support their colleagues. A 2021 survey found 70 per cent of those who were aware of Rail R U OK? had checked in with someone.

Former Senior Health and Safety Environment Advisor at Hitachi, David Hardman, has shared the difference it made when colleagues showed genuine concern as he navigated a tough time.

“When I returned to work after my mother passed away, nearly a dozen people noticed I wasn’t myself and checked in with me,” Hardman said.

“I was so grateful they took the time to ask and to listen genuinely, rather than waiting for me to say outwardly that I wasn’t OK.”

Hardman’s personal challenges and his understanding of the struggles that come with being a rail worker have made him passionate about creating supportive work environments and encouraging colleagues to check in with one another.

“There’s an amazing ripple effect that happens when you embody the simple steps of R U OK? as a business. One by one, people feel more comfortable checking in with others, and eventually, it becomes the norm,” Hardman explained.

“Because of that, employees who are struggling seek help earlier, lives are transformed, and sometimes saved.”

Rail R U OK? is about encouraging open and authentic conversations. IMAGES: Tracksafe

Katherine Newton, CEO R U OK?, said that over the past decade, the day has evolved from a national day of industry-wide action into a year-round movement that fosters a culture of compassion and understanding among colleagues.

“To those who have championed this conversation movement, thank you. You are pivotal in breaking down stigma and encouraging authentic and open conversations,” she said.

Jules Robinson has worked with Metro Trains Melbourne for 12 years and was involved in the first Rail R U OK? Day in 2015.

“I’ve noticed a huge company-wide shift since we launched Rail R U OK?, and it consistently resonates with our staff each year,” Robinson said.

“Building an R U OK? culture is about recognising that we are all human, we all
go through tough times, and we need to hold space for people to talk and learn to really listen.

The Yarra trams team held a breakfast. IMAGES: TrackSafe

“Rail R U OK? isn’t about training everyone to become a counsellor, it’s about acknowledging that life isn’t always easy and making work a safe place to talk.”

Rail R U OK? has grown to become more than just a day, it’s now a movement that aims to empower rail workers to identify the signs that someone might not be OK and offer guidance on how to listen and also how to help.

If you would like to become more involved, contact Hope Steele at TrackSAFE, hsteele@tracksafefoundation.com.au

Resources: visit tracksafe.org.au for free resources to help you have an R U OK? conversation and keep the conversation going throughout the year.

Support: If you or someone you know needs some extra support, you can find contact information for national support and services at ruok.org.au/findhelp.

For support at any time of day or night, Lifeline Australia provides free and confidential crisis support. Call 13 11 14,
text 0477 13 11 14 or chat online at:

13YARN is a free 24/7 service offering crisis support for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people. Call 13YARN (13 92 76).

MensLine Australia is a free 24/7 service offering support for Australian men.
Call 1300 78 99 78 or chat online at: mensline.org.au.