Traumatic stress kit
The Traumatic Stress Kit is a practical guide for responding, following a traumatic event such as a workplace incident, assault or natural disaster that can often involve threats to life, or witnessing or experiencing serious injuries.
The Traumatic Stress Kit is a practical guide for responding, following a traumatic event such as, a workplace incident, assault or natural disaster that can often involve threats to life, or witnessing or experiencing serious injuries. This kit provides information to Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBUs) and workers on how to manage psychological health risks under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (the Act) to ensure the health and safety of persons at work. ‘Health’ is defined in the Act, as both physical and psychological health.
Workers’ psychological and physical health can be adversely affected by exposure to a traumatic event which can increase the likelihood of workers experiencing a stress response. A stress response is the physical, mental and emotional reactions which can arise when workers are exposed to a traumatic event. This can lead to psychological injury such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression, or high levels of unplanned absenteeism from work, including sick leave, high staff turnover, social withdrawal, presenteeism and more task related errors.
If you notice someone at work doesn’t seem to be coping, or has been affected by a traumatic event, you can help by providing advice and encouragement to the affected worker to talk with their supervisor or seek assistance from a counsellor/psychologist or their preferred GP.
Trauma related workers’ compensation claims can be expensive and difficult to manage, so it makes good business sense to ensure best practice approaches to managing and mitigating the impacts of trauma.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a particular set of reactions that can develop in people who have been through a traumatic event which threatened their life or safety, or that of others around them. This could be a car or other serious accident, physical or sexual assault, war or torture, or disasters such as bushfires or floods. As a result, the person experiences feelings of intense fear, helplessness or horror. Beyond Blue
Managing traumatic events
Provide practical support and guidance early
People have very different reactions to events and often a reaction may be delayed.
The level of assistance and how it’s provided will need to be assessed on a case by case basis. Support can be delivered either individually or as a group, and participation should be voluntary and when appropriate.
It is important to maintain confidentiality and respect the privacy of all affected. The PCBU should keep a record of when support is offered, however respect privacy and health information requirements.
Step 1: Before (prevention / planning)
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|Raise awareness and provide information about mental health. For example, see resources and support available from organisations like the Black Dog Institute and Beyond Blue.|
|Identify and manage the risks in your work. (For more information on your duties and guidance refer to How to manage work health and safety risks Code of Practice|
|Be aware of risks in the work you do, the known risks in your industry, and have adequate systems to manage those risks.|
|Ensure all worker’s contact details are up to date.|
|Have processes in place to respond to emergencies and disasters and ensure workers and managers are trained in these processes. Note: A business needs to ensure an emergency plan is prepared and maintained. Refer to Managing the work environment and facilities Code of Practice|
|Consider initiating contact with competent mental health support services eg. an Employee Assistance Provider (EAP), a local psychologist or a local medical centre and arrange a plan for support following trauma.|
|Ensure leaders are trained in what support services are available to workers.|
Step 2: During
- Contact emergency services on ‘000’ if required.
- Contact affected workers and offer support and practical assistance. You may be able to begin to arrange medical assistance and/or an early referral to appropriate mental health services with the consent of the worker.
- Initiate any emergency or serious incident processes you have in place as soon as possible.
- Coordinate with workers’ families as required.
Step 3: After
- The manager, co-ordinator or supervisor should arrange a review of the cause of any workplace incidents as soon as appropriate. A suitably skilled person should undertake an assessment of the incident, how it happened, what must be in place to prevent it from happening again, and what interim measures are required in the meantime to manage any risks.
- Any discussions with affected workers must be on a voluntary, consensual basis when medically appropriate.
- You should review safety systems and effectiveness of procedures in consultation with workers.
- Consider engaging professional assistance. The effects of traumatic events can take time to recognise and recover from. Coping strategies, training and support will assist. Some reactions can last for longer than weeks and may require ongoing monitoring and medical review.
Step 4: Ongoing support
- Remember the effects of a serious incident do not stop after the initial discussions or meetings and support may need to be ongoing. Each person will react differently to being involved in, or witnessing, a traumatic event. Some will develop a range of symptoms, which can significantly impact on functioning and meet criteria for a clinical condition.
- Provide information and advice for managers and workers to assist in providing ongoing support and management of risks to the workers’ health.
Symptoms to look out for include but are not limited to:
- fear of returning to work
- lack of sleep or disturbed sleep patterns and/or frightening dreams
- re-experiencing the violent event through intrusive thoughts and memories or flashbacks
- increased heart rate
- muscle tension or headaches
- gastro-intestinal disorders
- exaggerated startle response
- low mood, difficulty with concentrating or memory
- anxiety, depression, phobias
- grief, guilt or disbelief.
These symptoms are a normal reaction to a traumatic event and each person should seek advice from their GP, psychologist or psychiatrist for a diagnosis and treatment.
- SafeWork Australia: Work-related psychological health and safety – A systematic approach to meeting your duties
This national guidance material provides information on how to address psychological health risks under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all persons at work.
- SafeWork NSW: Young Workers e-ToolkitIn NSW, there are more than half a million young people (aged up to 25) in the workforce. Young workers require additional support to ensure they are carrying out their tasks correctly and safely. The e-Toolkit has a arrange of resources specifically developed to support young workers’ safety.
- SafeWork NSW: Mentally healthy workplaces
Mental (psychological) health, just like physical health is an important part of work health and safety. Recognising and managing these risks is an essential part of creating a safe, healthy and productive workplace.
Mental health and safety (the basics)
Mental health at work (free programs and resources)
- Workplace Prevention of Mental Health Problems – Guidelines for Organisations
These guidelines consist of actions that organisations can take to prevent mental health concerns within the workplace, which are intended to complement existing legislative requirements for Work Health and Safety and the prevention and management of bullying/harassment.
- Business in Mind
This is a workplace mental health promotion program to help owners/managers of small to medium businesses, which will assist in the reduction of social and financial impacts.
Business in Mind website and videos
Business in Mind Resource kit
- Phoenix Australia - PTSD and Recovery
What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after experiencing a traumatic event? A practical guide and resources to assist with implementing early intervention measures for a workers recovery.
- Phoenix Australia - Recovery after Trauma
A Guide for People with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), who have questions with the process of recovery from PTSD.
- Workplace Mental Health Toolkit
A practical guide for workers to assist them in understanding common mental health issues in the workplace, and to provide strategies and resources to support those who may be experiencing a mental health condition.
- Mental Health First Aid Resources:
(i) Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviours
(ii) Suicide First Aid Guidelines for people from immigrant and refugee backgrounds
(iii) Panic Attacks
(iv) Suicide Support Service Providers
- Suicide call back service - is funded by the Australian Government which provides counselling to people at risk of suicide. People affected by suicide can contact this service on 1300 659 467 or visit www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au
- Conversations Matter - is a practical online resource to support safe and effective community discussions about suicide. Visit www.conversationsmatter.com.au
- Beyond Blue - Providing information and tools to help you stay safe, look after yourself and others. Providing phone and online support, advice and action on 1300 224 636 or www.beyondblue.org.au
- Mental Health Line – 1800 011 511
- Black Dog Institute
- Suicide Prevention Australia
- Lifeline – 13 11 14 (24 hour crisis hotline)
- Beyond Blue
- Headspace for young people - If you are a young person aged between 12-25 and need information relating to general mental health, physical health, work & study and drugs & alcohol, this service is designed for you.
- Kids Helpline – 1800 55 1800 – online counselling available