“At first it’s like a dream”: Robert Gray reflects on the lasting impact of a train incident
Operation Lifesaver has embarked upon a series of interviews with railway employees to share with our readers the effects of an incident.
We want to express that while an incident is tragic for all those involved, rarely has the train crew’s experience been captured. Often overlooked by the media, we want to give you a first-hand glimpse into the long-term effects an incident has on the train crew, their coping skills, and what motivates them to get up every day and do the job.
In this installment, we had a chance to catch up with Robert Gray, senior advisor health and emergency preparedness at VIA Rail Canada Inc. With 36 years of railway industry experience, Bob has, unfortunately, seen his fair share of incidents around the railway.
What does it feel like to be involved in an incident?
At the start it is like a dream, you are not sure if it’s reality; time kind of slows down and then it picks up real fast. Then you realize that you have a job to do and the training kicks in. You do what it is you have to do to help your customers and co-workers.
What happens in the aftermath of an incident?
You question why this has happened to you. You feel responsible for all kinds of things. Things go through your mind: ‘the what-ifs’, I call them. You get angry, irritable and after some time you settle down and realize that you aren’t. However, I realize this does not happen all the time for everyone. Then, when you get back on the job, every noise or bump that’s not usual startles you—your sense of awareness is at its max.
What lasting impact has being involved in incidents had on you? How has it impacted how you do your job?
It has taught me to be aware and be better prepared for any type of incident. I am now better prepared mentally and I know that I am ready to face an emergency situation. I share my experience with co-workers in order to better prepare them and make them aware of what can happen and how to respond to an emergency. I see many employees who are involved in terrible train incidents and the impact it has on them. That in itself motivates me to try and reduce the incidents.
What's one thing you'd like Canadians to know about rail safety? What would you like them to think about when they see train tracks and railway property?
All train crossing and trespassing incidents are preventable since trains cannot stop quickly. Canadians must be very vigilant when they are around tracks and trains. A train could come at any time from any direction. See tracks, think trains!
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