There has always been a risk of serious—even fatal—injury at your job. But what happens if you’re not the one who died on a construction site, but the one who witnessed a fatal construction injury?

You may feel extreme guilt, anger, frustration, or simply not be able to get the image of the accident out of your mind. These are all symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a serious work injury that can take weeks, months or even years to successfully overcome.

Controlling the Effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

While employers may not be able to prevent workers from suffering PTSD, they should have policies in place to control the effects of PTSD, including:

  • Crisis response teams – Construction supervisors should have an on-site crisis response manager, as well as coworkers trained in PTSD and its effects (called peer supporters) Members of the crisis management team should address all workers after a serious accident, as well as identify workers who are coping with severe emotional distress.
  • Professional help – Early intervention is key in preventing PTSD symptoms in construction workers. It is vital that a professional trauma assistance team is sent to the accident site within 24 to 72 hours after a fatality or critical injury.

Additional Help for Workers

These teams should be provided by the employer free of charge and offer counseling, referrals, therapy and additional help for workers suffering from PTSD, such as:

  • Defusing – The first step in crisis intervention is a group meeting to address the causes and consequences of the accident. Counselors can help teach workers how to deal with their thoughts and negative emotions.
  • Debriefing – This session typically occurs the day after the accident. Counselors help workers understand the triggers, reactions, and other behavioral aspects of PTSD. This many include a separate meeting for family members educating them on possible PTSD symptoms.
  • Intervention – During the first two meetings, counselors should identify individuals who are showing signs of adverse reactions to the event. These workers may be given referrals for further treatment and time off from work to recover.
  • Follow-up – After a week of counseling, the trauma coordinator will discuss with your employer whether there is need for further treatment.
  • Evaluations – When the intervention is over, the employer and trauma coordinator will assess the effectiveness of accident and PTSD policies, making necessary changes to the plan.

You must remember that it will take time to fully control your PTSD symptoms. Your employer should give you all the help you need and ensure that your job will be there when you are ready to come back to work. To find out if your employer should be paying for the costs of a PTSD construction injury, click the link on this page to order our free report, What the Injured Worker Needs to Know: Your Workers Comp Guide.

Manfred Ricciardelli
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Morristown Workers' Compensation Lawyer