Mental Health Support - Workplace Fatalities
During the last several months there has been a wave of jobsite fatalities in Ontario.
It is very stressful and difficult for everyone, particularly when there is a lack of information on resources that can help the worker’s families, co-workers and involved supervisors/managers deal with the event.
It is important to note that a workplace fatality is a traumatic event and has the potential to cause a long-lasting condition known as PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Symptoms can include guilt, flashbacks, fear and anxiety. Symptoms are often triggered by exposure to people, places and things connected with the event.
Other symptoms can include substance abuse and disturbing dreams, thoughts and/or feelings.
Proper intervention immediately after the event can prevent development of PTSD.
Though not all people exposed to a traumatic event will develop PTSD, it is critical that all supervisors and workers on-site and anyone involved in the aftermath of the event feel supported and be given specialised resources to contact.
It would also be advisable for supervisors and managers to be trained on the symptoms of PTSD so they could intervene if they notice a worker struggling with symptoms.
Placing a list of PTSD symptoms in prominent places around the jobsite with information on supports available is also wise.
I was in contact with the WSIB recently and got answers to some important questions about the specialized support available for fatalities at work.
Q: When is the trauma counselling activated?
A: Within 24 hours of learning of a traumatic fatality at a workplace, the Crisis Intervention Counsellors (CIC) will contact the family, employer and/or co-workers.
A request for CIC assistance may be made by the family of the deceased worker, the employer, co-workers, union or Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development. No official report of a fatality is needed for the CIC to contact affected parties.
Q: What if an employee who was present on site when the fatality occurred calls for support before an official report is received. How is that dealt with?
A: The CIC will proactively contact the affected parties when they learn of a traumatic fatality, which may be before the WSIB has registered a claim.
If someone contacts them before they have a chance to reach out, the CIC will provide any necessary support.
Q: How long does the support last?
A: There is no time limit on the support provided by a CIC. They will generally work with the affected parties until they have other supports in place to help them. They may also have ongoing contact with people at specific intervals, e.g. the anniversary date of the fatality.
Q: Are all employees who were on-site eligible?
A: Yes. The CIC will work with anyone affected by a traumatic workplace fatality who needs support.
Q: How does the WSIB support the investigative team who are responsible for investigating the fatality?
A: The CIC is not involved with the investigation of the fatality. However, CICs are available to speak with co-workers and can provide individual support for those who may be involved with the investigation of the fatality.
Based on these questions and answers, it is clear that the WSIB should be contacted right away in the event of a workplace fatality to ensure proper support is available.
I have a client who had to investigate a fatality on a jobsite recently. The client was impressed with the CIC’s response and was supported by them during the investigation that followed. The client was grateful for the speedy response and that the employees had support.
“The knowledge of the prompt engagement by the CIC with these individuals was such a relief to me to know supports were rolled out almost immediately.”
It is essential for companies to develop a protocol to protect employee’s mental health in the event of a fatality on the jobsite. A very important part of this protocol would be to activate the Crisis Intervention Counselors available through WSIB.
By: Julian Toy H.S.C. Substance Abuse Professional
Member of The Ontario Association of Mental Health Professionals
If you have questions, need training or literature please contact Julian directly:
Direct Line: 905-866-7301
Services: Fit for Duty/Drug and Alcohol policy development, Fit for Duty/Drug and Alcohol training, Employee Substance Abuse Assessments and COVID 19 Mental Health Training,
Preferred provider of Fit for Duty/Drug and Alcohol training Eastern Construction Ltd.