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What is a major incident?

A major incident is a large-scale Psychological Critical Incident (PCI)* with the capacity to directly affect the psychological wellbeing of large numbers of people.

For workplace trauma, as well as providing substantial exposure to traumatic material, major incidents usually require longer, more demanding shifts and therefore put a great strain on employee resilience.

A major incident may last for several days, weeks or even months. Although non-essential operations are usually temporarily suspended, this can lead to a backlog and pressure of these duties that ultimately need to be picked up. The management of this type of PCI requires careful planning and coordination to avoid internal and external support resources being overwhelmed and to ensure that all those impacted receive the correct level of care.

Several factors that contribute to the likelihood of a major incident occurring may be present in a workplace for example if we think about an airport’s risks:

  • Acts of terror: for example, airports have been identified as a heightened threat from terrorism. The gathering of large groups of people, the potential for mass disruption or “spectacular” news and aircraft vulnerabilities are just a few aspects of this.
  • Transport disasters, particularly aircraft crash / fire. There are often also railway stations that serve an airport.
  • Environmental hazards – aviation fuel, hazardous chemicals and materials, construction work, dangerous machinery.

When we are drawing up a strategy for workplace trauma, it is important we consider the risks of a major incident and that the human aspect links to the overall business continuity or emergency plans.

*A Psychological Critical incident (PCI) is an event or series of events that may cause significant emotional or physical distress, psychological impairment or disturbance in people’s usual functioning. It is also sometimes referred to as a potentially traumatic event.

If you are responsible for managing the impact of a major incident or crisis, then check out our research, in collaboration with Resilience First (a global network of businesses and partners focused on sharing knowledge, influencing policy and shaping practice on resilience) on best practice here

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