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Developing procedures and resources

The procedure following a critical incident can be very briefly simplified into three stages each requiring its own detailed process. Developing procedures and resources include the following:

  • Identification of critical incident and those in need of support: Managers are the obvious choice for doing this but need to be aware of the major factors predicting psychological trauma and how their team is responding to an event. Responsibility for requesting assistance can be widely shared for example between managers, trade union representatives and employees.
  • Immediate support: Ideally some form of initial support will be put in place before employees leave the workplace. This is informal, focused on safety, practical and welfare needs and may be carried out by a manager or colleague trained in crisis-informed psychological first aid. Information should be made available that normalise crisis responses and offer basic strategies to manage crisis reactions along with sources of support and advice.
  • Follow up intervention and monitoring of recovery: From the point of the incident occurring onwards, assessment is continually required for identifying current and emerging needs. For many people, education and support in the workplace will be enough but you need to consider how and where you will refer those individuals who need a higher level of care. Processes for accessing specialist trauma support and mechanisms for rehabilitation should be clear.

There are many useful resources when it comes to looking at post-incident procedures. The international standard ISO 22330 “Guidelines for people aspects of business continuity is a good example. This document expands on the guidance in ISO 22301 and ISO 22313 providing a uniform approach relevant to any size of the organisation that needs to prepare for and respond to, events that are disruptive, challenging or distressing for its people.

People are the greatest asset in any business and it’s encouraging that their safety and wellbeing now warrants a standalone document. We were delighted to be involved in drawing up these guidelines and contributing to the management of the psychological aspects.

Although it is not a definitive guide to managing an incident, ISO 22330 does provide a useful starting point for considering where an organisation currently sits in its people response. It can be helpful for considering blind spots – the things we don’t know that we don’t know – gaps in existing policies and processes, current strengths and areas for improvement and where it may be necessary to bring in additional technical expertise.

ISO 22330 details recommendations across the phases of preparation, response, recovery and restoration. Two informative annexes focus on psychological response management and relatives’ response teams. The document is a good framework for creating policies and procedures and clear pathways of care for any size of organisation. Once they have identified the “what to do,” organisations can more effectively utilise existing internal resources and / or identify the areas of external expertise required to implement the “how to do it.”

The first Annex, along with the clear definitions at the beginning of the document, provide concrete advice on steps that can be taken to provide a continuum of care. It emphasises 2 clinically effective, immediate actions that all organisations should be taking after a crisis or potentially traumatic event: providing psychological education and workplace support. Psychological education normalises responses and empowers people to become active in their own recovery. Workplace support can vary from the basic, humane care that we would want to offer and receive to trained peer supporters. Managers and supervisors often want to do the right thing but don’t know what this is and for many lower-risk profile organisations, training peer supporters is simply not an appropriate option.

ISO 22330’s recommendation for providing psychological education and workplace support was actually one of the driving forces behind the development of KRTS Power to Respond® allowing organisations of any size to quickly and easily implement an effective solution to meet these 2 recommendations at the point of need.

Initial questions to consider:
How will you identify a critical incident and who can start the response process?
How are concerns about the process captured and dealt with?
What health and welfare resources are available to employees who are identified as needing further support? Does that resource offer effective crisis services or trauma treatment?
How are resources made available to employees and are external services accessible and engaging?
What data will be collected at what point and who will have access to that?
What action will be taken in instances where the procedures haven’t been followed, e.g. education of managers?

For more informative resources on strategies for creating resilient organisations, please see the following link.

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