The impact of a workplace accident can be devastating for the accident victim and for the victim’s family. However, the consequences resulting from a serious workplace accident or fatality are not felt only by the person who was hurt and his or her loved ones. Co-workers who observed the accident and resulting injury can also be affected. The company as a whole can also be impacted by tragedy in detrimental ways.
One of the major issues which can occur after an on-the-job accident is the development of post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. When a victim who got injured develops PTSD, workers’ compensation should generally cover the costs of treatment as the mental issues are directly related to the on-the-job accident. The victim may need to get legal help in fighting for coverage if the insurer or employer denies counseling and treatment. PTSD treatment is not typically provided for co-workers who observed the accident, although the post traumatic stress experienced by these workers is often very real.
Post-Traumatic Stress Following a Workplace Accident
Safety BLR published a report recently detailing issues with post-injury stress among those who witness or help to respond to a workplace accident which caused a serious injury or fatality. This includes those employees who render aid to an injured worker, or who clean up the scene of an accident. Employees who observed or dealt with the aftermath are said to suffer from “critical incident stress” if they exhibit mental, behavioral, cognitive, or physical symptoms due to the incident.
The symptoms of critical injury stress can be very damaging and debilitating, as critical injury stress can manifest in frightening ways. An employee who suffers from this type of stress after observing a work injury or fatality could suffer regular headaches and/or chest pains. Fatigue and dizziness are common, as are concentration difficulties, depression, anger, anxiety, mood changes, impaired problem solving abilities, memory problems, and confusion. Antisocial behaviors are possible, and many witnesses of workplace injuries will begin to use alcohol more frequently.
For some witnesses to workplace accidents, the critical incident stress goes away on its own with time. For others, however, full-blown PTSD develops. Safety BLR indicates critical incident stress is considered to have become PTSD if symptoms persist for at least four weeks or longer.
Employers should try to help prevent critical incident stress by offering counseling and other stress relieving tips to those who observe a co-worker’s serious accident. While workers’ comp may not force employers to cover PTSD resulting only from observing an accident, the problems with employees who develop PTSD can undermine a company’s future success. In fact, Safety BLR warns around 60 percent of companies close down within two years of the time a workplace tragedy happens. Companies may close, in part, because they lose good workers who are traumatized by the accident and who could have been helped.Leave a Comment »