After a Workplace Accident Part 1: How to Support the JHSC

An effective Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) is the cornerstone of a successful health and safety program. Comprised of both managers and workers, the JHSC aims to improve health and safety in the workplace. Despite the JHSC’s commitment and best effort, what happens if an accident occurs?

In the wake of a workplace tragedy, a JHSC may be left feeling like they’ve failed. Members who witness the incident or who are tasked with investigating it may experience trauma.In fact, the Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL) created a Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) program specifically to support their inspectors after they are part of an investigation of a catastrophic workplace accident or fatality. The program aims to open the lines of communication for those who feel that they are not coping well after being part of a graphic or disturbing investigation.

Following an accident, the JHSC may require support in order to cope with the trauma of being involved in a serious workplace event, but also to deal with any residual feelings of inadequacy that may arise from not identifying a hazard that caused a critical injury or fatality. It’s not the fault of the JHSC; ensure that this message is clear. Below are some tips for supporting the JHSC in the wake of a tragedy:

Hold a Meeting to Debrief

The JHSC is entitled to reports and findings from investigative sources following an inspection after an incident, but don’t wait for these reports to call a meeting and debrief the team. This meeting can be a way to communicate information and ask members how they are coping, and offer support. Ask workers if they need additional professional support.

Ensure that the JHSC uses your Organization’s EAP

Does your EAP (Employee Assistance Program) include crisis counselling? If not, talk to your benefits provider about adding it. If so, ensure that those services are available to the JHSC and all workers following an incident. Employees should be informed of what services are included and how to access them. If your organization does not have an EAP, be proactive and talk to a benefits provider about implementing an EAP before an incident occurs.

Be Understanding

Recognize that being involved in an inspection with a catastrophic injury or fatality will affect some JHSC members more than others. Be understanding, as employee morale is likely to drop temporarily, along with productivity. Acknowledge that this is okay. They will require some time to come to terms with all that they have experienced.

Review Reports Together

When the JHSC receives the reports to which they are entitled, review them together. Reviewing the details can trigger trauma, so having a supportive environment to complete this review is beneficial. As well, it gives the employer an opportunity to instil confidence in the JHSC. They are an integral part of hazard identification and the organization’s overall health and safety program – be sure that the organization is clear in their message of their continued trust in the JHSC’s ability to work together in conjunction with the company to support the health and safety program.

Conclusion

Nobody wants to witness or investigate a workplace accident. Coworkers, very often, are also friends, so having to investigate the cause of a peer’s life-altering or life-ending injury can be very traumatic. Be ready to support the JHSC in the worst-case scenario.

If you have questions about the JHSC’s role after an accident, or how to support the JHSC in the wake of a tragedy, OSG can help. We have been successfully training JHSC members for over 20 years, and we are the largest private provider of JHSC committee certification training in Ontario. When it comes to JHSC – we know our stuff. Call 1.800.815.9980 to speak to one of our health and safety experts today, or view our JHSC Part 1 or Part 2 training online now.

Written by Jennifer Miller | Curriculum Development Coordinator


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