How to Support Staff After a Workplace Tragedy

Imagine, it’s the middle of the afternoon and you’re at work. You receive an email sent by a Manager to the whole company. You learn a co-worker, who you happen to be close with, has suffered a life-threatening injury and has been rushed to the hospital. Your stomach drops. Your breathing becomes rapid and shallow, and your eyes fill with tears. Questions and “what ifs” flood your mind and everything becomes a blur.

No worker wants to experience or witness a workplace fatality or serious injury; however, workplaces need to have a strategy in place that will mitigate the fallout of a workplace tragedy. The strategy will include requirements for communication and a plan to provide ongoing support to employees.

Accident Workplace Response Tips

Ensure Safety

First and foremost, employers must ensure the safety of their employees, if the incident occurs on-site. Emergency Response plans should be put into place when a severe accident occurs. Emergency evacuation routes and designated meeting locations should be included in the plan, and attendance should be taken at the meeting point.

Communicate

Communicate to staff regarding the incident as quickly as possible. Provide the known and non-confidential details with your employees, and if further details will follow, tell them when and how they will be communicated. Hold a meeting to share new information and outline how employees may help those involved in the incident.

Be Supportive

Individuals handle grief in a variety of ways, some like their personal space, while others like to surround themselves with people. Employees will need support from their co-workers and management. Offer a meeting in a boardroom, or hold a luncheon where people can talk, listen, or just be there with others during this difficult time. If there was a fatality, make arrangements for staff to attend the funeral if they wish to do so without docking their time.

Be Understanding

Recognize that this type of incident may affect some more so than others. Be understanding that morale and productivity may be low and employees may be distracted. Acknowledge staff that this is okay. They need to take their time to come to terms with what has happened, so that they feel able to resume work safely.

Encourage The Use of Other Resources

Employees should be reminded of the resources that are available to them to help them cope, whether that is an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), counselling services, having HR and management available to talk, or other resources that are part of your wellness program.

Honour the Worker

Losing a co-worker can be tough to handle. Employers can honour the worker by simply hosting an event to honour the deceased. For something that is more lasting, employers can plant a tree, name a bench or lounge after the worker, donate to a charity of the family’s choosing, or create a scholarship in their name. By honouring the worker who has lost their life due to a workplace incident, co-workers and the family will feel more supported by the employer as it displays their compassion.

No employer wants their workers to become injured or sick, or even die because of a workplace incident. Unfortunately, it happens. Employers can do their part by providing health and safety training, ensuring that they are complying with the Ministry of Labour requirements, and instilling best work practices for their workers to ensure due diligence is being met and their workers are going home the way they arrived to work. It is important to have a program in place for if and when a serious incident occurs at your workplace to mitigate complications and to provide immediate support to those involved.

Check out an amazing charity dedicated to supporting families after a workplace fatality, life-altering injury, or occupational support group, Threads of Life. At OSG, we regularily partner with Threads of Life to sponsor presentations for our clients. You can read more about our partnership here.

As seen in our April Be Safe Newsletter

Written by Jenna Kressler | Curriculum Developer


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