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Editor's Column: What Can Employers Do To Prevent Psychiatric Stress Claims?

William Jordan William Jordan , 7/19/2016
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Don Phin According to the California Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Workers Compensation, employers can and should try to prevent these unwanted exposures. Here's what they recommend... which just so happens to be good management practices, period: For victims of traumatic, violent or frightening events, critical incident debriefings and trainings are appropriate as soon as possible after the incident. Post-trauma support groups and individual counseling might also be helpful. Employers can reduce stress from changes in the workplace by ensuring effective communication with employees by:
  • Using newsletters, staff meetings, and individual contact between managers and workers.
  • Establishing internal complaint procedures and informal dispute resolution systems as outlets for employees to have their concerns heard and addressed.
  • Soliciting formal and informal input from employees about ways to make the work environment more productive and less stressful.
Managers can also improve the management of job-related injury cases so that physical injuries don't lead to psychiatric stress injuries. The same principle applies to dealing with employees who have pre-existing mental problems or stress issues that might be subject to complications in the workplace. In addition to considering modified duty adjustments and rehabilitation needs for injured workers, supervisors can help resolve problems or personal issues that don't relate directly to the injury, but can impact employees' readiness to return to work. Firms should implement confidential employee assistance programs that acknowledge the interrelationship between personal and work problems and encourage stressed employees to seek help. Be sure to provide managers and supervisors with training on the basics of effective supervision. Here are some helpful tips:
  • Set realistic goals for workers.
  • Make sure that workers have the resources and authority to meet assigned responsibilities.
  • Give individuals an opportunity to offer input on actions that affect their jobs.
  • Monitor and document worker performance.
  • Let workers know how they're doing and what are the expectations for improvement.
  • Reinforce and reward good job performance.
  • Learn how to cooperate with resolution efforts.
  • Maintain confidentiality.
  • Learn constructive confrontation with troubled employees.
  • Identify behavior patterns that might indicate problems requiring professional assistance.
  • Make effective referrals to employee assistance programs.
  • Comply with legal restrictions against any form of sexual harassment or discrimination.
  Sounds like common sense to me.