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United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Preventing Suicides on the U.S. Rail System through Intervention Training Programs

Monday, September 27, 2021

Despite efforts to implement effective suicide prevention strategies, deaths from suicide have steadily accounted for about one-third of all fatalities that occur on the U.S. rail system. A lack of research on the effectiveness of preventative strategies may be contributing to uncertainty among rail carriers when considering implementing countermeasures.

To address the lack of knowledge in this area, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) sponsored research to review and analyze the most established suicide intervention training programs from around the world. A new report, Review of Suicide Intervention Training Programs, reviews ongoing programs in the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States. A U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) Volpe National Transportation Systems Center (Volpe Center) team of human factors experts reached out to railroads to collect information on their programs and produced a high-level overview of intervention programs and strategies. Published in August 2019, the report serves as a source of information and insight for the rail industry.

The U.S. DOT Volpe Center’s analysis found that no program meets the needs of all railroad carriers. Each carrier has its own unique constraints and needs that require a strategy specific to its situation.

The report highlights key program attributes and decisions a carrier will need to consider during each step of the training program development process:

  1. Early preparation
  2. Implementation planning
  3. Content development
  4. Implementation
  5. Continuing improvement

It also includes some general tips and guidance for successful implementation.

The report helps to fill the gap in research about suicide intervention training programs for railroad staff and crew members. It provides lessons learned and best practices based on successful programs that have been implemented around the world and aims to serve as a starting point for rail carriers in the United States to implement their own programs.

The U.S. DOT Volpe Center hopes that sharing this vital information will benefit the railroad industry as a whole and lead to fewer deaths across the national rail system. 

Overview of Suicide Intervention Training Program Basics.
Overview of Suicide Intervention Training Program Basics. View a 508-compliant version of this content. (U.S. DOT Volpe Center graphic)

Celebrating more than 50 years of federal service to the nation, the U.S. DOT Volpe Center’s mission is to improve the nation's transportation system by anticipating emerging issues and advancing technical, operational, and institutional innovations for the public good.