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Looking After Workers Following an Incident

28 May 2017

The NZ Herald recently had a couple of articles about a car versus a bus accident in Te Anau. The first photo I saw was the burnt wreck of both vehicles. However, the second article I saw showed the vehicles fully alight, flames leaping high, and black smoke filling the sky. The article read that the man inside the car was screaming for help. Around the same time, there was a fatal car versus train incident near Matamata.

 

The photos, and story, about the Te Anau accident appalled me. There will be many people who see, and read, that article who are connected with the victims. These may be family, friends and work mates. The trauma of knowing a person has been burnt alive is huge, but becomes insignificant when the imagined becomes the reality, thanks to the photos. I know a person who was one of the first on the scene at the train incident.

 

These are two examples of trauma which may not be work related. Regardless of this, as responsible employers or managers, we need to manage these situations. A worker who is traumatised is not going to be a safe, or productive, worker.

 

One of the first things we can do is have an organisational culture which encourages workers to tell us when things are affecting them. Let them know that it’s okay to speak up, and they won’t be judged or ridiculed for “being soft”.

 

Be clear about who workers can talk to. This may be their direct supervisor, or the health and safety, or HR manager, depending on the organisation.

 

Workers need to be told that it is their responsibility to speak up, if they are suffering from trauma. They need to understand that their managers are not mind-readers and will not automatically know that the worker is having a problem.

 

In the event of a workplace trauma, particularly a significant trauma, there will be a lot of options for worker support. Similar steps can be put in place for non-work related trauma. These can include giving them a person to talk to, assisting with finding counselling, giving them some time off. Possibly, a driver who has witnessed an horrific crash may benefit from having another driver with them for a period of time.

 

As employers and managers, we can offer support, but it is up to the worker to accept it. Some workers will respond better to different types of support than others. It is in everyone’s best interests to listen to, and support, workers.

 

How can Safewise help?

Our consultants can talk to employers and employees to help find the best solution to any concerns in your workplace. Whether this is before, after, or unrelated to a trauma event, we will do our best to maintain a safe and efficient working environment for all.

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