Workplace incidents can have a negative effect on any individual in the workplace, including their families. Outcomes can affect workers physical and their mental wellbeing. It can affect their performance, their behaviour and may even lead to self-harming behaviours. These critical incidents involving staff members require a great deal of consideration and the appropriate processes to managing stress and support the workers.

Debriefing is a process where support is given to groups or individuals who have experienced some type of traumatic or critical incident. The incident may have affected the workers who may need to express their thoughts or feelings about the incident in some way. The focus of debriefing is to provide the opportunity for workers, and those affected by the incident, the opportunity to understand what happened, address any concerns they might have and to try and normalise what has happened at an early stage before it causes ongoing trauma to the affected workers.

Some of the signs and symptoms following critical incidents that can manifest in affected staff include:

  • Restlessness
  • Signs of fatigue due to poor sleeping
  • Change to eating behaviour or diet
  • Increased use of alcohol or other drugs
  • Profuse sweating
  • Recurring dreams
  • Isolating behaviours
  • Absenteeism and decreased productivity

If we can identify these behaviours, either in ourselves or with our colleagues, we can start a conversation about providing appropriate support strategies. It is recommended to do a hot debrief immediately after the incident (when and where it is safe to do so).

Managers or trained facilitators should carry out these debriefings. Thought should also be given to convening a further welfare debrief meeting within 72 hours of the incident and ensure all involved or affected workers and other relevant persons are invited to attend.

Summarise the incident and clarify any uncertainties and allow the participants to ask questions and express their concerns and feelings voluntarily. Participants should also be given information on how to seek ongoing support for the welfare. Additional sessions may be required to be scheduled as needed.

Developing a sense of awareness and understanding around the workplace incident aims to allow the participants to understand and normalise their thoughts and feelings. Creating a safe space for the staff to reflect and process their thoughts, along with educating the team what resources for support are available to them encourages them to return to normal life.

Immediate intervention provides emotional resilience improving communication between groups and management. These debriefings also allow an opportunity to update a policy or procedure where needed.

Workplace Emergency Management assists businesses to promote safe workspaces by providing Emergency Plans, Diagrams, and regular training for your staff. Our team of highly qualified consultants have experience across all kinds of industries. Call us today at 02-8883-1694 for more info.


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