Beyond the basics: workplace trauma and the impact of community


By Stephen M. Pfeiffer, PhD

Many individuals equate

workplace trauma

with on-the-job physical violence, injury and emotional distress – incidents most likely to occur in high-risk professions including firefighters, law enforcement officers and health professionals. However, as noted in past articles, workplace trauma is not limited to the threat or experience of physical harm. Bullying, harassment, theft and even more subtle or external issues like natural disasters or downsizing can all have a detrimental impact on employee health and well-being. According to a recent report from the

American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress

(AETS), it is important to factor all possible sources of trauma into an effective response protocol. No workplace, no matter how safe, is immune to the threat of potentially traumatic occurrences. Therefore, it is critical that employers have plans in place to prevent and manage workplace trauma.

Defining trauma: an expanded outlook

AETS report author Carol Hoffman notes that there are myriad events that might trigger trauma in any given group of employees, from obvious causes like workplace violence, death or other threatening behavior to occurrences like natural disasters, downsizing or layoffs, and even building or construction. In short, Hoffman states, “incidents that have an impact within a company or organization will affect the employees of that group.” Depending on the nature of a given business – it’s culture, community, norms and traditions, location and size – employers will need to take different types of trauma risk into consideration. Ultimately, however, it is best to be prepared – and to assess these risks with an eye to stress and trauma management in order to preserve the mental and emotional health of employees.

The importance of trauma preparedness

Without a plan of action to manage workplace trauma, employers risk not only employee health, but also the health and success of the company as a whole. Hoffman suggests in her report that, if employees feel “neglected” in the wake of a distressing event, they may eventually come to feel decreased loyalty to their employers – and if such feelings are widespread, morale is likely to suffer as a result. In addition, workers compensation costs to cover PTSD and other mental or emotional disorders will be the company’s responsibility, as will costs for any resultant legal action. Employees who are ill, unstable or out on disability contribute to reduced productivity, and subsequently reduced revenues. In addition, physical health costs beyond those associated with emotional response may well influence absenteeism among employees. The resultant decrease in employee commitment, production and dedication associated with these concerns constitute a strong incentive for employers to plan for workplace trauma. With so much to lose from the dangers of workplace trauma, it behooves all employers to educate themselves about the many simple and affordable provisions against employee stress and anxiety that can help preserve overall well-being and morale.

To learn more about

managing workplace trauma

, consider discussing your company’s possible risk factors with a

Qualified Medical Evaluator

Get details by contacting me via email at

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