Colorado Public Works Journal, Summer 2021

14 | Colorado Public Works Journal Addressing the Emotional Needs of Employees Following Traumatic Workplace Incidents Mental health and wellbeing remain top of mind for leaders through- out the construction industry. The pandemic underscored the impor- tance of mental health and wellbeing of workers at all levels as well. One such area of special focus in the public works sector of the con- struction industry is catastrophic work zone incidents. This is a topic that can involve employees from various job responsibilities from affected state, county, and municipal transportation agencies, as well as roadway protection workers for contractors and subcontractors. Protecting the physical safety of roadway protection workers is a priority of the members of the Colorado Asphalt Pavement Associa- tion (CAPA). CAPA Director of Technical Services and Training Tom Clayton said “CAPA has discussed mental health during committee meetings and shared resources with members to highlight the importance of mental wellbeing as an important aspect of workplace and jobsite safety”. Work zone incidents are frequently catastrophic with traumatic injuries. The mental wellbeing of roadway protection workers can be affected both by witnessing such incidents and from being exposed to the aftermath. Sometimes the victims of such crashes are co- workers or subcontractors known by those witnessing the incident. Employers can help address the emotional needs and overall wellbeing of employees by incorporating Critical Incident Response capabilities and protocols into emergency crisis incident plans. This is an important element of effective crisis management suitable for major workplace incidents and traumatic jobsite tragedies. Following a work zone incident, Operations and Safety personnel busily execute “emergency response” checklists to clear damaged vehicles and other debris and ensure the roadway can be safely opened. However, it is important that these emergency response plans and crisis management protocols address the wellbeing of all employees involved as witnesses or potential victims of close calls. Addressing the human element of crisis management is vital. This requires effective pre-planning to know how your organization will respond should an “unthinkable incident” occur on a company workplace or jobsite. An important adage in crisis management is attributed to EAP industry leader Bob VandePol “ a crisis is not the time to google for a crisis counselor”. Get to Know Your Employee Assistance Program Many employers likely have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) available to provide consulting to the organization and to provide or help facilitate appropriate counseling and support services to employees. It is important to contact your EAP service provider to inquire if they offer critical incident response services and what the typical expected response time will be to mobilize such services. If your company does not have an EAP, ask your insurance and risk management advisor if such services are available. There are some service providers that will provide critical incident services on an ad hoc emergency basis. CAPA Stresses Importance of Critical Incident Response Preparedness As an association, CAPA serves members in various operations supporting work zone construction from public agencies, asphalt producers and paving contractors, equip- ment manufacturers and distributors, as well as suppliers of materials and products uses in paving operations. Clayton said “the importance of critical incident response applies to all CAPA members. The association encourages all member organizations to consider how to incorporate the human element into their crisis management plans and checklists”. Clayton stated “CAPA is committed to providing members with additional resources and tools for their safety toolbox to expand their efforts in this important topic”. By Cal Beyer; Vice President; Workforce Risk & Worker Wellbeing CSDZ, A Holmes Murphy Company Cal Beyer, CWP, SCTPP is Vice President of Workforce Risk & Worker Wellbeing for CSDZ, a Holmes Murphy Company. He is a member of the Executive Committee of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention and the Expert Advisory Group of the Center for Workplace Mental Health. Cal was instrumental in the launch of the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention. Contact: (651) 307-7883 or Case Study: Loveland Barricade, LLC Shawn Severin, General Operations Manager for Loveland Barricade, LLC, is an advocate for assessing the wellbeing of employees following any major work zone collision. Earlier this year, Severin shared at chapter meetings of the Colorado Asphalt Pavement Association (CAPA) and the Rocky Moun- tain Chapter of the American Traffic Safety Services Associa- tion (ATSSA) the importance of checking-in on employees after so-called critical incidents. Severin further highlighted how the next time he was notified of such an incident that his crews happened upon as they traveled back to the equipment storage yard, he was waiting for the crew to arrive. Severin held an impromptu and informal safety huddle to discuss the incident with the crew at one time. Assistant Manager Chelsea Lousberg described the “experience as positive and welcome by the employees”. Lousberg recalled the different style and tone of the meeting: “it was so nice to see and hear the workers sharing their thoughts and feelings among themselves”. She called it a “really important breakthrough in the company’s safety mindset”. Lousberg said she was happy when Severin said, “he immediately knew he had to share the importance of critical incident response with other industry leaders”.