Supporting workers in the immediate aftermath of a critical incident is essential for both short- and long-term health and wellbeing, writes
Domestically, and indeed within the local NSW bus and coach community, we unfortunately have fairly regular critical incident challenges to deal with. In the face of unexpected accidents, there has been widespread trauma for those both directly and indirectly involved.
And this is the crucial point about Critical Incident Management. The effects can be far reaching because our networks of co-workers, family and friends are also implicated by default. As I’ve said before in this column, the bus and coach industry has an impressive record of employing local people and engaging with the community, so it is particularly vulnerable to the effects of critical incidents.
As human beings, we tend to be optimistic by nature, considering the likelihood of a ‘disastrous’ event as remote or ‘always happening somewhere else’. In this way, a critical incident will often come as a bolt from the blue, which is even more reason for employers to have a Critical Incident Management plan in place to deal with the aftermath in a timely, coordinated and compassionate way.
It is important to realise that Critical Incident Management isn’t only concerned with the physical impact on injured workers but also, and very importantly, the emotional impact on all workers and their extended families.
Engaging a psychologist or counsellor to conduct a post-trauma debrief and triage assessment to determine the best intervention and treatment option can facilitate workers to return to normal as soon as possible. Commonly part of an Employee Assistance Program, the key components of a trauma debrief session are: 1. Assisting workers to process the events and
normalise responses 2. Avoiding or minimising long-term impacts 3. Assessing the need for further psychological
treatment 4. Assessing requirements for workplace
rehabilitation 5. Facilitating a return to work as soon as possible
following the incident.
An important first step in Critical Incident Management is known as “scoping” to evaluate the requirements needed for a specific situation.
This typically involves a telephone discussion with the company representative reporting the incident to decide the best response, as there will be a range of options. Importantly, an experienced health care professional will respond from the outset, advising the most appropriate steps for managing the incident using best clinical practice. The scoping will confirm specific details around logistics and timing, clarifying the number of employees directly and indirectly affected and those who should be included in the critical incident response.
An effective scoping means the number of counsellors and/or psychologists required can be accurately assessed and allocated quickly and appropriately. Just as is the case for workplace rehabilitation, timing and follow-up are both crucial in critical incident management to minimise longterm impacts and monitor a worker’s recovery. Typically the timeline of Critical Incident Management is as follows:
All employers have a duty of care to their staff to offer appropriate support in the aftermath of a critical incident. Studies suggest that interventions act as urgent emotional first-aid aimed at reducing distress and providing stability to assist a person involved in a crisis to return to “normal” functioning.
The importance of having a Critical Incident Management plan in place ensures effective management to avoid either too much or too little intervention at the appropriate time and with the support of an experienced service provider.
“All employers have a duty of care to their staff in the aftermath of a critical incident”