Traumatic incidents that occur while you are working are uncommon, but they do occur. Kate Nowlan, CEO of CiC Employee Assistance, explains how to make the most of preparing for the worst.
Let’s be clear about what we mean by a traumatic incident without getting too caught up in the “what ifs.” It could be a serious accident on your job site or a sudden death on the job. On their way to work, an employee may witness a serious accident or, worse, be involved in one.
How will you support an employee who has been diagnosed with a terminal or long-term illness, as well as your other employees?
Then there are incidents, such as a major fire or even a terrorist attack, that have a massive impact in terms of the number of people involved and affected. Although such incidents are uncommon, recent history shows that they can and do occur.
So, what can you do to prepare for such unforeseeable events?
We owe it to our employees to protect them, as well as to ourselves, to ensure that we are physically and mentally fit to run our businesses. This includes arming ourselves with the practical skills and knowledge that will protect us in the face of unexpected trauma and ensure that all those involved receive timely and appropriate support for whatever issues they may be experiencing.
While preparation is essential for ensuring that you, your employees, and your business are resilient in the event of a crisis, thinking through and preparing for a potential critical incident isn’t the most enjoyable task you’ll have to do as a business owner.
However, as an employer, it is part of your responsibilities. You owe it to yourself and your loved ones as well.
This is why any manager or business owner should think about what they would do in a given situation. As a result, it is a task that requires some thought and consideration. In case anything goes wrong.
Here are my top tips for preparing for traumatic workplace incidents:
1.Make a crisis management plan to help protect you if the worst happens.
This will include a summary of potential incidents and situations that could have an impact on your business, as well as the key actions you would take if they occurred. Could an accident occur on the site you’re currently working on? Do you have a qualified first responder on this job? Taking a few moments to consider the “what ifs” will heighten your awareness and appreciation of how you can keep things on track.
2.Identify experts to assist you if you do not believe you can do it all on your own.
There are specialists who can walk you through the possibilities and potentials of what might happen, but they can also help train and prepare you. A one-day course on dealing with unexpected trauma and crisis management, for example, could help to get things back on track following an incident and get things back to business as usual as soon as possible.
3.Consider the effect of trauma on an individual.
Understanding, appreciating, and recognising the effects of a crisis or trauma on others (and, to some extent, on yourself) will allow you to direct employees to appropriate professional help and make any necessary adjustments to their work or working conditions while they recover. An employee who has been through trauma, for example, is likely to have recurring nightmares, be heavily drinking or self-medicating, and suffer from constant anxiety, which manifests itself in changing behaviour, moods, and temperament. It is impossible to help them or yourself if you are not aware of the signs and symptoms. It is also impossible to realise that an incident is having a long-term, negative effect if you are not aware of the signs and symptoms.
4.Schedule a meeting to revisit and revise your plans.
Just as every business conducts a regular fire drill to ensure employees react appropriately in the event of a fire, you should examine how you and your company are prepared to respond to a critical incident and the associated trauma on a regular basis. What has changed since you last reviewed your plans?
Kate Nowlan is the CEO of CiC Employee Assistance (www.cic-eap.co.uk). She is a psychotherapist and trainer with a special interest in assisting those who have been exposed to cumulative traumatic experiences at work.