Question from Bianca:
Last spring we had a scary incident occur in our West Edmonton industrial yard. One of our cranes sunk into the soft soil during a heavy lift and toppled over. We’re so thankful nobody was injured, but the operator himself has been off work with post-traumatic stress ever since. He’s a veteran operator, but this really shook him. We’d like to bring him back slowly, but we have no idea how to handle modified with respect to mental injuries. Thoughts?
(A) An employee’s return to work after a traumatic psych injury is a critical time to support success. Proper planning can address potential issues, including working relationships and performance. This should begin before the employee’s first day back at work.
The following can help ensure employees feel supported:
• Consider recommendations from treating professionals
• Allow the employee to begin with tasks that they agree they’ll be able to accomplish
• Gradually increase the employee’s working hours
• Allow flexible scheduling to attend medical appointments.
• Monitor employee energy levels at various times of the day and schedule work accordingly.
• Minimizing stressors that might impact the employee’s well-being
• Consider triggers e.g. lighting, noise, distractions, social settings
• Remove any non-essential tasks to allow the employee to stay focused on performing their primary duties. An example might be removing responsibility for organizing staff events if someone else can easily do it
• Discuss with the employee how they’d like information to be shared with co-workers. This can include how the employee will respond to questions about their health, their absence and any changes in work responsibilities.
In this case, due to the severity of the trauma, it may even become necessary to provide reorientation or retraining to support the employee’s success.