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How to Manage Worker Wellbeing During a Crisis

Nowadays, wellbeing in the workplace has become synonymous with the mental health crisis. And rightly so, rates of anxiety, depression, and burnout have all accelerated, particularly since the pandemic.

But what about ensuring safety wellbeing for staff during an actual crisis? That’s a fundamental responsibility for employers. Read on to learn how they might achieve it.

Worker wellbeing during crises and disruptions

Let’s look at an illustrative example – the active shooter incident.

Active shooting incidents have every potential to overwhelm affected organizations. What’s more challenging, still, they tend to cascade out from their initial point of impact.

This was precisely the case with the Christchurch shootings four years ago in New Zealand. The targeted mass shooting at the Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre soon became major safety and security events for organizations outside of its immediate perimeter.

Specifically affected was the nearby Christchurch Hospital, some two kilometers away.

During that incident, the Hospital had to address two potential safety incidents simultaneously. The first was the influx of patients – the Hospital would eventually treat nearly three times more gunshot victims in a matter of hours than neighboring facilities treat in an entire year.

Overlapping safety concerns during a crisis

Of course, that wasn’t the only safety concern facing the Hospital that day.

Major security crises like mass shooting incidents can trigger lockdowns at healthcare facilities. That’s even when the facility isn’t the site of the initial incident, like Christchurch Hospital wasn’t.

Why’s that? The cold logic goes that suspects might come to the hospital to inflict further harm on victims.

And that’s not all. Often the apprehended suspect ends up at the hospital as a patient.

Once the public hears of that, they might want to retaliate.

Finally, crowding in the event of security incident can itself create a business disruption.

Case evidence shows that hospitals have to deal with a convergence of publics including emergency patients who show up at the hospital in private cars and on foot, rather than in ambulances.   

Safety risks and the duty of care obligation

The example of Christchurch Hospital is illustrative, here, because healthcare facilities have to factor active shooter incidents in as a recognized safety risk to which they must address.

Why exactly? Simply put, it’s the law.

Entities have a legal obligation to ensure the health and safety of staff and relevant stakeholders, including customers or patients and visitors.

The law often makes no distinction between crisis and non crisis. In other words, the obligation still holds during a crisis, especially if that crisis is a recognized hazard.

Unsurprisingly, it’s this aspect of duty of care that’s most difficult for organizations to maintain.

Doubly so for Safety management teams.

After all, these teams have traditionally focused on internal workplace hazards, i.e., those arising from unsafe work practices, hazardous industrial conditions, or exposure to harmful chemical, biologic, or physical agents.

How then to get Safety teams comfortable with addressing external workplace hazards resulting from bad actors? Read our guide, Bridging the Gap between Safety Management and Crisis to find out.

Bridging the Gap between Safety Management & Crisis