Pre-incidents factors

These factors occurred in the personal and work life of the employees before the critical incident took place. They influence the ability of the crew member to cope with the events to come.

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Age and Senioriy

The mean seniority of the participants to our study was 28.6 years at the time of interview and seniority was calculated at the time of each incident. It is difficult to analyse the effect of age or seniority on the impact on incidents because they are correlated, the older people had more seniority and had more opportunities to experience incidents.

In general, we found that those who have only one incident later in their career suffer from the same intensity of reactions as those who had incidents when they were younger and at an earlier stage of their carriers.

Risk Protection
A large number of respondents indicated that with age and seniority came a greater sensitivity to fatalities and close calls, that affected them more and more.

More senior workers use more readily the available help offered to them after a critical incident

Some people said that seniority helped them understand how to handle an incident, gave them more self-knowledge and an understanding of their responses to difficult events. This familiarity helped them when a traumatic event occurred



The railway business is a very masculine environment. It carries a lot of the stereotypes associated with strong masculinity. These stereotypes are known to play an important part in emotional problems and help-seeking (Connel, 1995, Galdas et al., 2005, Chagnon et al., 2008). Masculine stereotypes define social behaviours for men and include suppression of emotions, violence, competitiveness, risk taking, physical strength, control, stoicism, substance use and abuse, being a provider, intolerance to helplessness, fear of failure and fear of being controlled by others. Men who adhere to these stereotypes tend to minimise their problems, think they can solve them on their own, do not share feelings with others, self medicate with alcohol, do not seek medical or psychological help when they need it and do not persevere in help seeking when their first attempt is not successful.

Risk Protection

Non disclosure of emotions and difficulties following critical incidents

People try to bury what they think is weakness, all the while displaying physical symptoms of anxiety, and feeling angry about being mishandled years after the event

Reduced ability to deal effectively with events that people face. This attitude results in great isolation and feelings of internal weakness, and self medication by alcohol consumption


Changing attitudes and use of available help improves access to resources, increases the possibility of positive care experience and reduces the impact of strong masculine stereotypes

However, people having increased expectations for support and care, there is a risk of increased difficulties when these expectations are not met by employers and support providers



Area perceived as dangerous

Accident sites may have an impact on the effects experienced by involved crew members.

Risk Protection

Involvement of dangerous materials (induce more fear and hyper vigilance)

Yard incidents are particularly traumatic (taking place in a supposedly safe place, involving colleagues, etc)

Presence of witnesses increases pressure and stress during incident and incident management


Environmental circumstances that render the incident unavoidable (poor visibility for example)



Develop and train managers for critical incident response programme (CIRP)

A Critical Incident Response Programme (CIRP) is important to reduce the negative impact of railway critical incidents on crew members. A proposal for a comprehensive Incident management protocol is described in section "Framework to reduce the impact of critical incidents".

Risk Protection

If the CIRP is not known and applied by all concerned parties it may have adverse effects by increasing the sense of abandonment, incompetency, and creating resentment from both managers and crew members

The absence of a CIRP increases the risk of long term traumatic reactions after a critical incident, longer leaves of absence and increased costs.

A CIRP proves that the employer acknowledges the effects that work related incidents have on crew members. This acknowledgement and care helps reduce the negative impact of the incident, people have fewer symptoms and come back to work quicker.

A CIRP describes the various tasks and responsibilities of each party in the management of a chaotic situation. It brings a sense of meaning, control and expectations.

A CIRP helps improve trust, reduce conflicts over measures to take after a critical incident, provides information to reduce the uncertainties about Workers Compensation processes and the impact of the Medical Handbook.



Knowledge from previous events


People learn from past experiences with critical incidents and situations. This also applies to railway critical incidents. Some participants said that because they had experienced incidents before, they knew what to expect from incident management and from themselves when subsequent incidents occurred. This knowledge lessened their sense of helplessness.

Risk Protection

Cumulative effect of several incidents becomes more of a risk that counterbalances the potential positive effect of familiarity.

Incidents are different from each others. What people learned from one does not necessarily applies to the next.

If previous experiences are not properly explored or analysed, their teaching effect may be lost.


Previous experiences may have a positive effect to help people control anxiety and panic after a critical incident

Learning from previous experience can be beneficial if the previous incident has been well managed and the impact was reduced.



Although in our sample, people never received training on the impacts of critical incidents, possible reactions, CIRP and procedures, some participants were trained as peers for peer support programmes. Others told about their wish for proper critical incident training.

Risk Protection

Proper training on the potential reactions one can have after a train fatality helps to better understand one’s emotions and anticipate feelings and reactions. This lessens the traumatic effect of incidents

Being well informed about the incident management protocol helps regain a sense of control over the situation.