Originally published at theogm.com
A serious accident is perhaps the most traumatic event that can take place at any workplace. It is the event that every health and safety professional tries to prevent. However, regardless of how many training programs, precautionary measures and disciplinary systems an employer implements, serious workplace accidents can and do happen every day.
You can never know in advance what accidents will occur or when, but you can plan ahead. You can know what the most likely risks are in a given situation to prepare for and, hopefully, avoid them. Having specific plans in place for various types of accidents and regularly training your employees to work within those plans is one of the most effective means of ensuring that accidents will be avoided when possible and handled appropriately when they do occur.
A workplace accident can change everything in an instant. Instead of going home tonight to your normal life, you could be going into a hospital and starting months of painful therapy. When you think about how much is resting on your shoulders, working safely is certainly worth it.
Working safely is a small price to pay for being able to improve your life. Taking care to wear your Personal Protective Equipment, to report hazards and to follow safe work procedures is no trouble at all, when you consider what could be lost if you don’t. Everyone has his or her own reasons for working safely.
In addition to planning for accidents and responding to them, instilling an attitude of safety among employees reduces your risk of having accidents occur. Workplace safety training instructs staff members on best practices and helps avoid common mishaps. Policies and procedures also reflect that safety is a priority within your organization. If employees are encouraged to cut corners to reduce costs or get a job done more quickly, the attitude of safety is undermined and an accident is more likely to occur.
These days, most people spend more of their waking hours at the workplace than at home. People who work together may become close, like extended family. Therefore, when a colleague dies or one is grieving a death or a loss, the impact on their coworkers can be tremendous and can influence the workplace in a variety of ways. Productivity can be compromised and the dynamics of the workplace can change. When the death is unexpected, the grief response can be quite traumatic for the survivors, further impacting work.
Each person’s experience of loss and each grief is unique. People go to work expecting things to be business as usual. At the end of the day, they go home to their families. The last thing anyone expects is for a co-worker to die in the workplace, either from natural causes or as a result of a tragic event. People may experience flashbacks to the traumatic event, have sleep and appetite disturbance, loss of enjoyment in life, and feel very tired. Following the initial reaction, there is a process of making some sense of what has happened.
If we accept that approximately 100,000 people are accidentally killed and over 104 million are accidentally injured annually at a cost of over $90 billion, we can begin to grasp the need to reduce mishaps. Tens of billions of dollars are also lost in destroyed equipment and materials where no injury is involved.
After the accident, it is inevitable that you will wish you could turn back the clock. You wish you had stopped and sanded that icy spot, or barricaded it until someone else could fix the problem. That’s how it is when an accident occurs. You experience what is known as the “What If” phenomenon. You wish you had taken the time to remove the hazards and essentially prevented the injury or death. Each day we are presented with opportunities to discover a hazard and correct it without anyone being injured.
No one plans on being involved in an industrial accident, it just happens. In most cases, it was simply being in the wrong place at the right time. In the sometimes matter-of-fact world of standards, acts and regulations, this would be cut and dried.
Most of us get through the day and weeks without an accident or injury—maybe nothing worse than feeling silly a few times. But some workers aren’t so lucky. For them the day becomes their last job—they are severely disabled or even killed in a workplace accident.
So what does all this have to do with you? It’s simple. We all have the responsibility for each other’s safety. If you see someone working unsafely, it is your responsibility to do something about it. You can approach them yourself and show them the safe way to do things. Or you can speak to the supervisor about it. The best thing you can do is to set a safe example. Your attitude and habits can end the results of the “What If” phenomenon.
The first step in attending to the personal needs of accident victims and their families is recognizing those needs. Most of the immediate needs are common sense. Accident victims and their families have suffered a trauma, which brings the possibility of pain, nervous agitation and accompanying shock, along with possible embarrassment of the accident occurring at all. So proper planning becomes a function of answering those needs and alleviating the concerns as much as possible.
Selection of the proper equipment, reasonable placement and training will go a long way toward mitigating victim concerns. Having the proper procedures in place to provide immediate first aid and assistance, and then reassuring and comforting the victim, are critical. In addition, as with all areas of safety and emergency response, training on the risks and dangers present and emergency response equipment available—including locations and use instructions—is an obvious necessity.
However, the answer to our topic of “The Mourning After” is two-fold. First, people will react to situations based on learned behaviours. Second, employers help define this behaviour by the way they manage their employees. If employees are allowed to take a short cut on the job and see that management does nothing to discipline, then a pattern develops and the downward turn to the beginning of the “What If” phenomenon begins. Employees must always keep their guard up, look for unsafe acts and conditions, and never take their personal safety for granted. Managers must also consistently and fairly enforce ALL safety rules. This, combined with safety training, will help develop safe behaviours and lead to fewer accidents. We must never take safety for granted. After all, a small safety infraction has a way of turning into a big accident, causing “The Mourning After” Effect!
Simon Mac Innis is an accomplished Occupational Health and Safety Specialist with experience in providing health and safety practices in a diverse environment.