New report: Characteristics of trespassing incidents in the US

To read the full report:

Stephanie G. Chase, Danielle Hiltunen, Scott H. Gabree (2018). Characteristics of trespassing incidents in the United States (2012-2014). Report number DOT/FRA/ORD-18/24, Federal Railroad Administration, US Department of Transportation, Washington, DC, July 2018.

KEYWORDS: Suicide, trespass, railroad, countermeasure, fatalities, grade crossing
ABSTRACT: : Trespassing is the leading cause of rail-related fatalities in the United States. A large proportion of these trespasser fatalities are from intentional acts (i.e., suicides). The John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center (Volpe Center) has been tasked by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to examine trespasser and suicide incident data on railroad rights-of-way to provide a better understanding of the contributory factors involved in these incidents and provide recommendations of potential mitigation strategies. This document provides a baseline measure of FRA trespassing and suicide incident data from 2012 through 2014. Findings illustrate a number of environmental and individual factors that are associated with each incident, such as location (region, state, and right-of-way vs. grade crossing), time (season, month, day of the week, time of day), and characteristics of the individual (age, gender, physical act that immediately preceded the incident). Each of these factors is analyzed in the hope that they may give predictive value in the future and a better understanding of the best ways to mitigate trespasser incidents on rail. 

Reporting of suicide and trespass incidents by online media in the US

To read full report:

Scott H. Gabree, Ph.D. and Bianka Mejia. (2017). The Reporting of Suicide and Trespass Incidents by Online Media in the United States. Final Report. U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Railroad Administration. Available online:

Abstract: The reporting of a suicide death in the media has the potential to increase imitative suicide attempts for vulnerable individuals who read the article, a phenomenon known as suicide contagion or the “Werther effect.” Organizations around the world have developed recommendations forhow to responsibly report on suicide incidents in a wayless likely to result in contagion. For this research, 1,173 articles on FRA-reported suicide and trespass incidents were collected and analyzed for content.While media outlets often followed many of the suicide reporting recommendations, none were consistently followed in every article analyzedand a few key recommendations were often never applied. For example, the term “suicide” wasoften included in the title of articles, details about the location where the suicide took place andthe actions preceding impact were often provided, while help-seeking information was only rarely included. In general, railway suicide incidents tended tobe reported in a similar way to trespass incidents, rather than as a suicide by another means. The development of railway-specificrecommendations couldhelp to encourage responsiblereporting practices regardingrailway trespass and suicide incidents.

Evaluation of a novel approach to preventing railway suicides: the community stations project

To read the full article, click here.

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to describe an evaluation of the Community Stations Project. The Community Stations Project was designed to address railway suicides in two ways: by improving the station environment in a manner that might improve community members’ feelings of wellbeing; and raising community members’ awareness of poor mental health and likelihood of reaching out to at-risk individuals. It involved four types of interventions (arts and culture, music, food and coffee, and “special events”) delivered at four stations in Victoria. Design/methodology/approach: A short anonymous survey was administered to community members on iPads at the four participating railway stations during the implementation of the interventions (between October and December 2016). The survey included questions about respondents’ demographics, their awareness of the intervention(s), their views of the station, their attitudes towards people with poor mental health and their emotional wellbeing. Findings: A total of 1,309 people took part in the survey. Of these, 48 per cent of community members surveyed reporting noticing an intervention at their station. Noticing the events was associated with positive views of the station, improved understanding of poor mental health, and a greater likelihood of reaching out to someone who might be at risk of poor mental health. Awareness of intervention events was not associated with respondents’ own emotional wellbeing. Practical implications: Continuing to focus efforts on mental health awareness activities may further strengthen the impact of the Community Stations Project interventions and ultimately prevent suicides at railway stations. Originality/value: This paper evaluates a novel approach to improving wellbeing and understanding of poor mental health in the train station environment.

Reference: Ross, A., Reavley, N., Too, L. S., Pirkis, J. (2018) Evaluation of a novel approach to preventing railway suicides: the community stations project. Journal of Public Mental Health, 17(2), 51-60.

Available online at:

Small Talk Saves Lives : a novel partnership to reduce suicide on the railway

The UK rail industry is working in partnership with Samaritans and the British Transport Police on the Small Talk Saves Lives bystander campaign, launched in November 2017. The first campaign of its type on the railway, it encourages the general public to support those who may be in emotional crisis around them on the railway network.

The campaign aims to give commuters the confidence to trust their own instincts and intervene if they see someone vulnerable who may be at risk of suicide on or around the rail network, and to talk to them to interrupt their suicidal thoughts. It proposes four "lifesaving questions" that passengers can ask someone who displays warning signs of suicide. 

To learn more about this initiative, visit

New article: Developing a framework of behaviours before suicides at railway locations

To read the full article:

Abstract: Better knowledge of behaviours of people at railway property could help with identifying those at risk of suicide. Literature has been reviewed from a range of disciplines on what is known about studying behaviour in this type of public location. Secondary analysis has been carried out on descriptions of behaviour from structured exercises with experts and other pre-existing sources. A framework has been produced with five main classes (display of emotion, appearance, posture/movements, activities and interactions) and associated sub-classes. Commentary has been provided on factors that influence identification of suspicious behaviours, how to distinguish these from normal behaviours and the circumstances that inhibit timely reactions to the behaviour amidst the complexity of the operational railway. Opportunities to develop and use the framework are discussed, including using this to prompt collection of additional behavioural data from wider resources, enhancing staff training and developing requirements for effective use of surveillance technologies.

Practitioner Summary: Many railway suicides could be prevented with better understanding of behaviours before events. Pre-existing data sources have been analysed, producing a framework highlighting five aspects of behaviour. This can prompt the collection of better evidence on pre-suicidal behaviours, with future applications in developing surveillance technologies, training staff and public awareness.

Keywords: Suicidal behaviour, railway, reporting, observation, surveillance technologies

Reference: Ryan, B. (2018). Developing a framework of behaviours before suicides at railway locations. Ergonomics, 61(5), 605-626. DOI: 10.1080/00140139.2017.1401124

Suicides on the Austrian railway network: hotspot analysis and effect of proximity to psychiatric institutions

To read the full article:

Abstract: Railway suicide is a significant public health problem. In addition to the loss of lives, these suicides occur in public space, causing traumatization among train drivers and passengers, and significant public transport delays. Prevention efforts depend upon accurate knowledge of clustering phenomena across the railway network, and spatial risk factors. Factors such as proximity to psychiatric institutions have been discussed to impact on railway suicides, but analytic evaluations are scarce and limited. We identify 15 hotspots on the Austrian railway system while taking case location uncertainties into account. These hotspots represent 0.9% of the total track length (5916 km/3676 miles) that account for up to 17% of all railway suicides (N=1130). We model suicide locations on the network using a smoothed inhomogeneous Poisson process and validate it using randomization tests. We find that the density of psychiatric beds is a significant predictor of railway suicide. Further predictors are population density, multitrack structure and—less consistently—spatial socio-economic factors including total suicide rates. We evaluate the model for the identified hotspots and show that the actual influence of these variables differs across individual hotspots. This analysis provides important information for suicide prevention research and practice. We recommend structural separation of railway tracks from nearby psychiatric institutions to prevent railway suicide.

Keywords: railway, suicide, prevention, cluster, hotspot, spatial point pattern, Austria

Reference: Strauss, M. J., Klimek, P., Sonneck, G., & Niederkrotenthaler, T. (2017). Suicides on the Austrian railway network: hotspot analysis and effect of proximity to psychiatric institutions. R Soc Open Sci, 4(3), 160711.

New study: Characteristics of Railway Suicides in Canada by C. Bardon and B.L. Mishara

Mishara, B. L., & Bardon, C. (2017). Characteristics of railway suicides in Canada and comparison with accidental railway fatalities: Implications for prevention. Safety Science, 91, 251-259.

Abstract: This study presents and compares the prevalence and characteristics of rail-related suicide and other railway fatalities in Canada over 10years, from 1999 to 2008. The methodology involved in-depth data analysis of records from provincial coroner and medical examiner’s investigations, railway company reports and Transportation Safety Board data. We identify physical risk factors and psychosocial descriptions of people who commit suicide and compared them to accidental (non-suicide) railway fatalities in order to identify at-risk populations and better target and elaborate railway suicide prevention strategies. We identified 460 accidental deaths and 428 suicides. Most people (94.7%) died on the site of the incident, although not always immediately. Canada does not have any specific locations with high incidence suicide or accidents clusters. We conclude that impairment of some type, by illness, substance abuse or intoxication, advanced age or immature youth, play an important role in a significant number of accidents, suggesting that more intense warnings of approaching trains may help prevent accidental deaths. Mental illness, although often being treated, is associated with the majority of suicide fatalities, and more than one-third of suicides occur on rails near psychiatric facilities, suggesting targeted prevention strategies in facilities near rails and at track locations in proximity to mental health facilities. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)

**Access the full article online.

A Partnership to Reduce Railway Suicides in London, Ontario

In a bid to reduce the number of suicides on London-area railway lines, CN's Police Service and the local Canadian Mental Health Associations are teaming up to erect hundreds of trackside signs that tell people in distress where they can get help.

Read the full article:

An Ongoing Partnership with Charities to Save Lives on the Railway in the UK

Since 2010, NetworkRail has been working with the Samaritans, a suicide prevention organisation, to save lives on the railway. This partnership is again extended in NetworkRail's Strategic Business Plan 2019-2024 (download the Safety, Technical and Engineering Strategic Plan). This suicide prevention initiative aims to enhance fencing and patrols in areas with most incidents (reduce access to means of suicide) and encourage and facilitate volunteering for the Samaritans across the railway industry through the 'Million hours Challenge'. 

This partership between a railway and the Samaritans seems promising. According to NetworkRail's website: “The number of suicides on the railway over the last two years has fallen by 18 per cent. In 2016/17, 237 people took their lives on the railway – the lowest number since 2010/11. Over the same period, railway employees, police officers and members of the public have intervened in over 2,500 suicide attempts on Britain’s railway.

There are 16,000 railway employees and stakeholders who are now trained in suicide prevention techniques, meaning that one in six employees are now able to support those who come to the railway in emotional crisis.” 

New Report on Incident Management Protocols and Employee Support in the Canadian Railway Industry (in French)

To download the full report (in French only):

Bardon, C., Mishara, B. L., & Soares, A. (2018). Évaluation de différents protocoles de gestion d’incident et de soutien aux employés après un incident grave. Montréal, QC: IRSST

Summary: L’industrie ferroviaire canadienne fait régulièrement face à des incidents critiques (IC) associés à des collisions avec des personnes ou des véhicules. Ces incidents peuvent occasionner des blessures graves, ou des décès, parmi les victimes, mais aussi des problèmes de santé mentale chez les ingénieurs et conducteurs opérant les locomotives. Chaque année, environ 20 personnes décèdent lors de collisions avec un train au Québec et une centaine au Canada. À ces incidents mortels s’ajoute un nombre inconnu d’incidents lors desquels des personnes ont été blessées ou des dégâts matériels ont été constatés. La plupart des ingénieurs et conducteurs de train seront exposés au moins une fois dans leur carrière à ce type d’évènement. Ils sont à la fois témoins, victimes, parties prenantes et souvent premiers répondants lorsqu’un tel incident critique se produit. Une proportion importante des ingénieurs et conducteurs de locomotive retrouvent rapidement un niveau de fonctionnement personnel et professionnel satisfaisant et garde très peu de séquelles aux plans psychologique, social et fonctionnel. Le temps de récupération après un IC peut toutefois être long et les employés requièrent un soutien pendant cette période. De plus, entre 4 % et 17 % de ces employés vivront des troubles plus sévères, incluant la dépression, l’état de stress aigu, l’état de stress post-traumatique ou des troubles anxieux. Il existe plusieurs approches cliniques efficaces pour réduire les symptômes post-traumatiques et une part importante de la recherche s’est concentrée sur ces traitements. Par contre, les besoins sont moins connus et les ressources sont plus rares pour ceux qui ne développent pas de stress post-traumatique et vivent des effets négatifs importants non diagnostiqués. Quelques études se sont intéressées aux protocoles de gestion d’IC et de soutien (PGICS) offerts par les employeurs et leurs recommandations visaient souvent à mettre de l’avant des pratiques visant à réduire l’impact potentiel des IC sur les employés et à accélérer le retour au travail. Par contre, ces protocoles, même s’ils sont fondés sur des études des conséquences des IC et des besoins des employés, n’ont pas encore fait l’objet d’évaluations empiriques. De telles évaluations sont nécessaires pour déterminer les éléments importants qui génèrent des effets positifs sur la récupération des employés et pour promouvoir les recommandations fondées sur des connaissances scientifiques. Ce projet vise à évaluer les PGICS déjà en place au Canada dans l’industrie ferroviaire et leurs effets sur les trajectoires de récupération des employés victimes d’un incident critique et de proposer les pratiques clés pour en réduire les effets négatifs. Soixante-quatorze ingénieurs et conducteurs ayant vécu un IC ont été recrutés pour participer à l’étude. Ils ont été interviewés à quatre reprises sur une période de six mois tandis que neuf superviseurs répondant aux mêmes critères d’inclusion ont été interviewés deux fois sur une période de trois mois. Une méthode mixte a été employée pour analyser le corpus de données, combinant des analyses statistiques et qualitatives afin de bien comprendre les liens entre les incidents critiques, les PGICS et la récupération post-IC. Les perceptions et besoins des superviseurs qui se retrouvent en première ligne de l’application des protocoles et de l’offre de soutien sont également présentés. Les résultats indiquent que les PGICS existants sont partiellement implantés ou le sont de façon inégale selon les employeurs, les provinces et les types d’IC. Entre autres, dans les IC sans décès, les protocoles de gestion et de soutien ne sont pas complètement appliqués, même si la santé des employés est affectée. Les IC ont des effets très variés sur les employés. L’équipe de recherche a pu établir cinq trajectoires de récupération : pas d’effets négatifs, effets négatifs qui disparaissent dans le mois suivant l’IC, effets négatifs qui diminuent régulièrement et disparaissent dans les trois mois suivant l’IC, effets négatifs qui atteignent un plateau entre un et trois mois avant de disparaître, effets négatifs qui perdurent après six mois. Dans l’ensemble, les deux tiers des employés voient les effets négatifs de l’IC se dissiper plus ou moins rapidement dans le mois suivant l’IC, 20 % des travailleurs ressentent toujours des effets significatifs après trois mois (trajectoire de plateau et d’effets perdurant après 6 mois) alors que cette proportion atteint 13 % après six mois. Ces effets sont non négligeables et affectent la cognition (concentration, rumination, distraction), l’énergie (fatigue, difficultés de sommeil) et les émotions (culpabilité, deuil) des employés. Ils peuvent également interférer avec leur capacité de faire leur travail de façon optimale. Les différences dans l’application des PGICS permettent d’évaluer le rôle de ces actions dans le processus de récupération post-IC. Les résultats de cette étude montrent que les protocoles de gestion peuvent avoir un effet sur le processus de récupération. Les éléments suivants ont des effets qui favorisent une accélération du processus de récupération : la présence d’un superviseur sur les lieux; la prise en charge de la scène de l’IC par un superviseur; une attitude respectueuse et empathique des différents intervenants; l’absence de pression sur les employés pour qu’ils poursuivent leur travail ou qu’ils reviennent prématurément; la démobilisation (retrait de la scène d’IC et retour à la maison) et la prise de congés automatiques; l’offre proactive de soutien par le programme d’aide aux employés; une procédure claire de retour au travail et d’évaluation des capacités de l’employé à reprendre sa vie professionnelle; une offre différée de soutien en cas de besoin; un suivi effectué après le retour et un contexte de travail positif. L’étude montre donc que la gestion de l’IC et le soutien offert par l’employeur sont des facteurs importants favorisant la récupération des employés. Ce sont des attitudes et actions sur lesquelles les employeurs peuvent agir et qui s’appliquent relativement facilement, sans engendrer de coûts prohibitifs pour les entreprises; alors que pour d’autres facteurs, comme la présence de soutien social ou la complexité de l’IC, les employeurs ont moins d’emprise. De plus, les entreprises ferroviaires ont des protocoles qui incluent la majorité des actions considérées comme efficaces. L’application rigoureuse de ces protocoles constitue la première étape vers l’amélioration des pratiques et donc de l’atténuation des effets négatifs des IC.



Workshop on Railway Suicide Prevention and Impact Reduction for Railway Personnel

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Spring 2014 – Beginning of a new research project on the evaluation of critical incident management and support protocols for employees who have experienced a critical railway incident

The CRISE and its partners from the Canadian railway industry VIA Rail and the TCRC have started a new research project, financed by the Institut de recherche en Santé et sécurité au travail Robert Sauvé in Québec (IRSST), VIA Rail and the TCRC. This project aims at evaluating the impact of critical incident management programs implemented throughout the industry on the development of stress reactions following critical railway incidents involving a third party (trespasser, vehicle, accident, suicide).

This project involves the participation of Canadian engineers and conductors who will be involved in a critical incident during the years 2014 and 2015. Results will be made public in 2016.

Anyone interested in knowing more about the project can contact the research team at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. This project is supervised by Cécile Bardon and Brian Mishara.

Summer 2014 – A literature review on the characteristics of railway suicides

Samaritans and Network Rail, in the UK, are currently carrying out a large scope survey of existing results and potentially useful databases to develop research projects to better understand railway suicides in the UK. As part of this programme, Brian Mishara and Cécile Bardon have conducted a literature review to examine the scope of current knowledge and needs for further research on railway suicides in the world.

Availability of the review: Unknown.


Friday, October 11, 2013


 Transport Canada and the Center for Research and Intervention on Suicide and Euthanasia at the Université du Québec à Montréal organised a workshop on railway suicide and the reduction of negative consequences as a satellite conference of the International Railway Safety Conference, in Vancouver, on October 11th, 2013.

Click here to review the workshop proceedings and recommendations.