Thursday, April 26, 2007

Long Black Train

In what seems like a scene from a movie, a CP rail engineer was killed Monday when the train he was operating careened out of control down a steep mountain grade in Trail, BC. The engineer, Lonnie Plasko, told his two crew members to jump from the train while he continued to try to prevent the 10 car train from crashing into the nearby parking lots and pipelines of mining company Teck Cominco.

As I wrote on Monday, regarding the Toronto Subway crash where the operator of the train was also killed, in addition to the tragedy itself and whatever other physical injuries, there will be harm to the other employees’ mental health. In fact, "CP Rail spokesman Mark Seland said the two surviving crew members have been offered criticial-stress debriefing and will be interviewed to help determine the cause of Monday's crash."( The other employees not only witnessed the death of their colleague but presumably were in the face of imminent death themselves.

One assumes that the "critical stress debriefing" will include counselling and other forms of mental health support to mitigate against the onset of PTSD. However, despite counselling, most of us would probably require a little time away from work to deal with the overall stress of the situation. For the stress to be compensable, a diagnosis of acute stress is going to be required and although Board policy states that the diagnosis must come from a psychiatrist or psychologist, in short term claims in circumstances such as this it would not be unreasonable to get the diganosis from a family doctor.

In the end, one thinks about the job of the train operators and the risks involved. I am reminded of the song by Josh Turner, Long Black Train, where he sings "There's an engineer on that long black train making you wonder if the ride is worth the pain"

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