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Managing Workplace Trauma

For some organisations, it’s inevitable their workers will face critical incidents.

It’s also inevitable that someone will be left dealing with the people aspects of business continuity and impact of human distress on day to day operations.

If that person is you, you could be dealing with:

  • Pressurised managers not knowing how to deal with shocked and upset members of staff
  • Sickness absence and the impact on daily operations
  • Conflicting advice about post-incident welfare procedures and when to do what
  • Confusion what’s normal (and what’s not) in recovering from traumatic events
  • Rehabilitation and recuperative duties
  • Staff turnover

It can be tempting to think that supporting people after a critical incident is a luxury but where the human side of post-incident operations is handled well there are great benefits for everyone concerned with a faster return to operational functioning

The benefits of getting it right are

  • More effective treatments and early intervention result in financial savings including reduced sickness absence, and costs of sickness cover or overtime and recruitment
  • An effective trauma support programme can contribute to improved workplace morale, better working relationships and increased employee satisfaction as staff feel valued and cared  for
  • Supportive management involvement, as part of the post incident procedures, leads to organisational empowerment and reduced stress for managers and ultimately increased productivity, through employees being healthier, happier and better motivated
  • Good procedures for recovery and rehabilitation can reduce exposure to reputational damage and the financial costs of prosecution or litigation

Getting it right therefore makes sound business sense for the organisation.

Often critical incidents are in the form of work-related violence – defined by the UK Health and Safety Executive as “Any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work.

This can include verbal abuse, threats and physical attacks. You can discover what the HSE is doing to address the issue of work-related violence and access a range of information at http://www.hse.gov.uk/violence/

The British Psychological Society published findings from a 2 day symposium that looked at early interventions for critical incidents. Their document can be found at http://shop.bps.org.uk/early-interventions-for-trauma.html

Our Executive Team regularly speak at national and international conferences to audiences from varied backgrounds such as education, mental health, emergency services, security and local government. One of the things that audiences say they benefit from is getting an understanding of what is actually happening in the body and mind of a person who has experienced a critical incident.