The business insurance community, including alternative risk management vehicles, is asking how it can mitigate exposures to workplace violence, or transfer them, to de-risking their risk portfolios with available commercial insurance, says Paul Marshall of McGowan Program Administrators, in the first of a four-part series about the impact and aftermath of an active shooter event.
After a major incident of workplace violence, the focus is often on the immediate needs of the people and the organisation.
“Many company leaders think they’re already covered when a workplace violence or active shooter incident occurs. Usually, they’re not.”
Sophisticated alternative risk insurance buyers, including self-insured, captives, risk retention groups and pools, are not immune to the massive expenses associated with mass shooting-type events. Dealing with the aftermath of an incident of workplace violence is essential, but it is also important to realise that your emergency response is not the end of the story.
You need to consider the long-term impact of an incident of workplace violence on your organisation and employees. When dealing with the aftermath of an incident of workplace violence, it is crucial to address post-event stressors that your team has experienced, and that can affect your team’s ability to return to work.
Exposure to violence and the potential death of co-workers places survivors at a higher risk of emotional trauma after an active shooter event. According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), 27 percent of people who experienced a mass shooting will develop PTSD, and one-third develop acute stress disorder.
The symptoms of PTSD after an active shooter event vary widely, and may include:
- Nightmares about the event;
- Thoughts or memories of the event that are triggered by news articles, television shows, movies, or conversations about the event;
- Avoiding activities that remind survivors of the event, especially places where a survivor feels he or she could experience a similar event again;
- Anxiety or fear upon hearing sounds similar to a gunshot, such as a car backfiring or fireworks;
- Feeling constantly on edge; and
- Difficulty sleeping.
Survivors of mass shootings are at a higher risk for mental health difficulties when compared to survivors of other traumas such as natural disasters.
Human resource departments must identify additional resources available to support employees after incidents of workplace violence or active shooter events.
Symptoms of PTSD after an incident of workplace violence
Team members who experience a workplace tragedy face a wide variety of symptoms as the experience of acute stress sends people’s bodies and brains into survival mode.
- Physical symptoms of PTSD following an incident of workplace violence include a racing heart, dizziness, shaking, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, and upset stomach.
- Mental symptoms of PTSD include denial, self-blame, confusion, poor memory, increases in mistakes, and trouble focusing.
- Emotional symptoms may include feelings of guilt, shock, fear, feeling overwhelmed, frustration, or anger.
- Organisational symptoms may include low morale, absenteeism, conflicts, low productivity, and mistakes.
Supporting your team after an incident of workplace violence
Managers and owners of an organisation that has experienced an incident of workplace violence need to have open lines of communication and should share facts to keep staff informed.
Show concern for staff by checking in after an incident of workplace violence, and by continuing to check in long after an incident of workplace violence has passed.
Managers and owners of businesses that experienced a mass shooting should be prepared with resources to assist in the event of an incident of workplace violence.
- Prepare a list of contacts and resources that can be used for specific critical situations, including contact information for a mental health-related crisis response team.
- Know the contact information for police and other emergency response personnel.
- Distribute a detailed list of company personnel who should be contacted in case of emergency.
- Ensure all staff have emergency contact information on file.
- Post distress hotline numbers in workplace washrooms and other private spaces.
If your business has experienced an incident of workplace violence, be prepared to offer counselling and debriefing to staff members. It can be helpful to bring in a qualified mental health professional to help staff members process an incident of workplace violence.
It is useful for all employees to discuss experiences in a group setting. To encourage group discussions it is helpful to integrate counselling into your active shooter or workplace violence preparedness plan.
Businesses should provide an employee assistance programme (EAP) that provides consultation and guidance to supervisors of employees who are experiencing difficulties in the aftermath of an incident of workplace violence.
An EAP can provide short-term counselling and a referral service to employees. An EAP can also provide threat assessments, as well as long-term counselling and treatment resources.
As time passes after an incident of workplace violence, managers and owners should be visible and continue to check in with staff to see how they are processing the event. Managers and owners should applaud teamwork and recognise success in the wake of an incident of workplace violence and should find ways to honour employees who were injured or passed away. They should also actively encourage employees to engage in self-care.
Having proper insurance coverage for an active shooter event or an incident of workplace violence will help your business be more prepared. McGowan Insurance offers additional coverage for expenses related to shootings and other incidents of workplace violence.
Manage the impact of workplace violence
Many company leaders think they’re already covered when a workplace violence or active shooter incident occurs. Usually, they’re not. Proper insurance is essential should the very worst happen.
McGowan Program Administrators offers active shooter and workplace violence insurance programmes to help organisations manage the risk of violence in the workplace and to be prepared if violence does strike. These programmes include additional coverage for expenses related to shootings and other incidents of workplace violence.
Paul Marshall is managing director of active shooter and workplace violence at McGowan Program Administrators. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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