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TSSA / RSSB Mental Health Conference 2017 – Wednesday 22 March, London

25 January 2017

TSSA has agreed to run a joint Mental Health Conference with the Rail Safety & Standards Board (RSSB) on Wednesday 22 March 2017 at RSSB’s premises at The Helicon, 1 South Place, London


TSSA / RSSB Mental Health Conference 2017 – Wednesday 22 March, London

A resolution carried at TSSA’s 2016 Annual Conference instructed the Executive Committee to raise awareness of mental health, and encourage a greater understanding of the subject. As a result, TSSA has agreed to run a joint Mental Health Conference with the Rail Safety & Standards Board (RSSB) on Wednesday 22 March 2017 at RSSB’s premises at The Helicon, 1 South Place, London EC2M 2RB – around 100 metres from Moorgate station, and a short walk from Liverpool Street station.


The conference is open to all TSSA reps, and applications will be considered from other members. Places are limited – to apply, please visit the TSSA website and apply on-line at:


Applications must be received NO LATER than midnight on Tuesday 21 February 2017.


Decisions on which applicants will be given places will take account of the need for a wide range of attendees from across the country, and across the TSSA membership.


A detailed programme including timings will be made available shortly, but it is expected that the conference will run from 1000 until 1600.


The conference will open by looking at mental health and how it affects TSSA members especially at work. Discussion will then turn to what strategies the union and its reps and members can use to raise awareness and address the issues affecting our members.


Why is mental health such an important issue for TSSA?


Railway industry employers, health and safety organisations and trade unions all agree that occupational health is an important issue. The financial costs of absence due to impaired health on the railway are estimated at £320m per year – not only is the economic cost of failure to adequately manage occupational health a high one, but the human cost is far higher.


Occupational health is referred to in the industry’s strategy document agreed last year entitled ‘Leading Health and Safety on Britain’s Railway’ in which the industry’s leaders have committed to further improve health and safety performance. The health and safety enforcement authority - the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) – has recognised that the management of health issues by employers has improved, but calls for much greater progress going forward.


So progress is being made on general occupational health. However, the social stigma attached to the subject of mental health makes it a much more challenging area of health management. TSSA is seeking to challenge the prejudice and misunderstanding that exists in relation to mental health, and raise a much greater awareness of the subject.


Most senior leaders within the railway industry recognise that mental health is a business issue, and they also recognise the fact that poor leadership or management may contribute to ill-health.


However, railway industry managers, many of whom are TSSA members, are faced with a massive hurdles. 76% of managers accept that they should be responsible for employee well-being, but only 22% have received training. Managers need to see much greater levels of commitment from directors and other industry leaders to support them, but they also need the support of well-informed TSSA reps and members so that real progress can be made in this area.


Many rail staff suffer the ill effects of being over stressed. The effective management of stress can prevent mental ill-health and resultant absences. Six “essential sources of pressure” in respect of stress and mental health have been identified:

1.    Resources and communication (Pressure from lack of resources or information)

2.    Control and autonomy (Limitations on how the job is done or freedom to make decisions)

3.    Balanced workload (Peaks and troughs in workload, difficult deadlines, unsocial hours, work life balance challenges)

4.    Job security & change (Pressure from change and uncertainty about the future)

5.    Work relationships (High pressure relationships with colleagues, customers, bosses)

6.    Job conditions (Pressure from working conditions or pay and benefits)


Tackling these will require a real change in the culture of the industry. TSSA reps are able to draw upon the guidelines for mental health issued by the National Institute for Health & Care Excellence (NICE), which state that employers should create a supportive environment that enables employees to be proactive when and if possible to protect and enhance their own health and wellbeing, and develop policies to support the workplace culture such as respect for work–life balance.


TSSA members that want to play a part in driving forward positive change in attitudes to and the management of mental health should apply to attend the conference!

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