One of the last train drivers to receive damages from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (The CICA), following an act of suicide on the railways, has spoken out on the need for better protection for workers.
The CICA is a government funded scheme to pay an award to people who have been physically or mentally injured in a crime of violence. The government changed the scheme in 2012 to exclude train drivers from claiming any compensation for physical and mental injuries in the course of their work.
Before the enforced change by the current government Nick Douglas was driving his train at 125 mph through Northallerton Station, when a member of the public stepped out onto the track in front of him. This terrible experience left Mr Douglas with significant psychological trauma and unable to work for a number of months.
Mr Douglas’s trade union, ASLEF, and Thompsons Solicitors, assisted him from the outset. The CICA denied the initial claim for compensation, and then only offered £1,000 at review stage.
Thompsons refused to accept CICA’s stance when it was clear that Mr Douglas, was suffering from significant after effects of witnessing the suicide and obtained additional medical evidence in support of his claim. The outcome was an award of £4,400.00 at appeal.
Speaking after his award Mr Douglas said: “I think it’s disgraceful that the CICA no longer covers train drivers. Are we meant to be so super human that when you are driving at 125mph and someone jumps onto the tracks and there is nothing you can do to stop you are expected to simply carry on and report to work the next morning? I couldn’t. I won’t go into what the impact is like but I can tell you the mental trauma stays with you for a long time – some drivers don’t return to work for weeks or months, and for others they are never able to return.
“It took me over six months to return to work, and even now, nearly two years on I am still affected by the incident and it also has had a big effect on my family, I’m not the person I was before. Train drivers need support – the last thing you think about is compensation, but it can help as part of the process.”
Wayne Christie at Thompsons Solicitors said: “The previous CICA scheme was by no means perfect, but instead of reforming the system to better protect train drivers, the Government has just pulled the rug away. This may save money but the feeling of isolation and a lack of concern from society is huge. It’s wrong that the Government simply refuses to recognise the effect that such incidents have on the wellbeing of innocent workers, who happen to simply be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Nick Whitehead at ASLEF said: “On average, there are over 200 suicides a year on the railways, and when they happen they cause great trauma for the train driver involved and their families. While we are pleased that ASLEF is able to offer a legal service that can help our members at difficult times, the Government changes to CICA mean protections for drivers have been removed and they can no longer get the compensation they should be entitled to. We urge the Government to think again.”
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