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Published: June, 2010; Vol 7, Num 1

 

Critical Incident Stress Management:

Fund Provides Vital Service When Tragedy Strikes

“Although our Fund is dedicated to preventing fatalities and serious on-the-job injuries, we also help LIUNA signatory employers and Laborers cope with the crises when such catastrophes occur,” says LHSFNA Management Co-Chairman Noel C. Borck. “As the construction season moves into full swing, the potential for these tragic events rises. Unfortunately, this year is no exception.”

This season has already accounted for a number of Laborer fatalities in highway work. While the economic recession has cut work for many Laborers, states as well as the Federal Highway Administration are pushing road projects to the fore as a means to create jobs and put Americans back to work.  In addition, the seasonal road repair budgets of state DOTs set up thousands of roadway work zones across the nation. The situation is much the same in Canada.

Work zones can be dangerous, particularly for flaggers who are usually on the front line between the driving public and the work zone. Crowded and ever-shifting, work zones also present a variety of hazards from within. In addition, building, pipeline and outdoor construction that typically picks up in the summer can also present serious risks for Laborers.

“Effectively managing worksite dangers is perhaps the most vital skill of Laborers and their employers,” says Borck, “but that only makes the occasional breakdown all the more hard to handle. The shock and trauma of a workplace tragedy, whether witnessed first-hand or not, can be intense and undeniable. While it is impossible to emotionally prepare for such events, the LHSFNA can help employers and local unions to address the emotional side effects after they occur.”

A sometimes overlooked service offered by the LHSFNA is its Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) program, coordinated by the Fund’s Health Promotion Division. CISM is a system of interventions designed to provide a timely response to the emotional needs of workers following a tragedy. CISM services coordinated through the LHSFNA generally include a consultation with a Health Promotion staff member to plan for and provide the most appropriate response and resources. Often this response includes a critical incident stress debriefing (CISD). A CISD is a one- to two-hour group meeting for impacted workers – and, sometimes, staff – who wish to participate. A CISD:

  • Helps workers share their experiences and vent emotions;
  • Helps workers deal with stress;
  • Helps workers understand their reactions;
  • Is a confidential, voluntary and educational process;
  • Is NOT a critique or investigation of what occurred; and
  • Is NOT therapy.

“Anyone who has experienced the death of someone close to them, including a co-worker, knows that emotional responses can be intense and difficult,” says Borck. “Often, a step in the healing process involves sharing those feelings with others who can relate to them. In addition to sharing emotions, a CISD provides an opportunity to get information about where to go for help if additional assistance is needed.  By simply providing workers a time to talk about their experience and process their emotions, an employer or a local union demonstrates compassion and concern which will likely go a long way when it comes to morale and moving forward from the tragedy.” 

It is recommended that a CISD be conducted two to ten days post incident, depending on the circumstances. As soon as the Fund is alerted to a critical incident, staff will respond immediately, assess the situation and make sure appropriate resources are provided. All CISDs coordinated by the LHSFNA are conducted by a trained professional. 

Complete information about CISM services can be acquired through a call to the Fund’s Health Promotion Division at 202-628-5465. Additional information about the services is also available on the LHSFNA website.

[Steve Clark]