It’s an unfortunate fact of life, but workplace crises are not uncommon. In fact, it seems like we hear about more every week. These acts can include the injury or death of an employee; a violent event in the workplace, such as an assault or robbery; a natural disaster that has a negative effect on the business; or even a workforce reduction.
A critical incident can be defined as any situation that causes strong emotional reactions that can potentially interfere with an individual’s ability to function right after the incident or at a later time. Critical incidents that take place at work can have considerable impact on employees and can seriously disrupt day-to-day functions.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 5% of all businesses experience an instance of workplace violence each year. For larger organizations with more than 1,000 employees, this rate is increased tenfold to 50 percent. And the most recent report from the FBI found active shooter incidents in the United States are on the rise with 30 occurring in 2017 and 20 in 2016. Of these incidents almost half (45.6 percent) occurred at a business while nearly one quarter (24.4 percent) occurred at Pre-K-to-12 schools and institutions of higher learning.
When these situations occur, a Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD) may be implemented by your employee assistance provider (EAP). In this process, a counselor or team of counselors who have extensive training and experience in responding to workplace traumas will provide aid to individual employees and entire departments or organizations.
What Happens After a Critical Incident?
The goals of a CISD are to reduce the impact of distressing events and to accelerate recovery before harmful stress reactions have a chance to damage the performance, health and well-being of those affected.
Immediately, after an event occurs, your EAP will schedule a CISD. CISDs gather the employees who have been affected by the incident and are typically conducted 72 hours after the event. There’s a reason for the delay: When an event has just taken place, it’s often very difficult to pull everyone together to effectively meet, and your employees’ emotions will generally be high. Depending on the situation, they may briefly retreat from the worksite, or simply be in shock and not able to benefit from a CISD until a few days later when they’re calmer and have had time to process what happened. After an incident, remember that employees want information, so keep it flowing. It can dramatically reduce anxiety.
Even though the CISD itself may take place a few days later, an EAP can also provide immediate assistance. Here is what to do when the organization has experienced a critical incident:
Immediately call your EAP. One of the best ways an EAP can begin to help is by hearing and understanding all of the information regarding the situation. Your EAP can directly support the caller reporting the incident and assess the situation to see what level of intervention is needed. The EAP representative will help the caller make an action plan, which can include the following:
- What to say when addressing the matter, and reminding employees that they personally can call the EAP for individual support 24/7
- Find out whether an EAP representative is needed to conduct a brief meeting to relay what has happened to as many people as possible, with reminders of how to take care of themselves and to reach out to the EAP at any time
- Determine whether employees should be allowed to leave work or make recommendations for adjusting the workday to maintain operations, while at the same time, enabling people to have time to decompress and process what happened
- Planning for a CISD. As mentioned above, a CISD will typically be planned for 72 hours after the event has occurred, which provides time to appropriately schedule the meeting so as many people as possible can attend Any time a critical incident happens in the workplace it can be a frightening and emotional situation. It’s important to enlist the assistance of your EAP to help your employees manage their states of mind. Finally, don’t forget to ask the EAP about tips for taking care of you.