John D. Finerty, Jr.
If a serious injury accident occurred today, would your clients and their employees know what to do? What if a reporter appeared on the scene 5 minutes after an accident; would they know what to say? When government investigators arrive on the scene, will employees talk to them, keep quiet or refer them to someone else?
Training employees to react in a crisis may save lives, prevent further injury, preserve evidence and help your client defend itself.
Crisis management begins with preparation. Part of preparing to manage a crisis is identifying possible causes. Once those are clear, we can anticipate how to handle them and apply company policy. In doing so, you should keep in mind a few points when training employees:
- Assist the injured;
- Contact emergency personnel;
- Contact the company;
- Cooperate with law enforcement;
- Refer media to a company representative.
Most of these tips are common sense, but in a time of crisis, common sense is not always so common. Train employees and managers now and they wont make mistakes when it counts.
Develop a Crisis Management Plan
- Anticipate Crises.
The first step in any crisis management plan is to anticipate, in general terms, the kinds of crises that could affect your organization. Some are obvious. For example, a food preparation and packaging operation would be most concerned about product contamination; a construction company would be most concerned about a job site accident; or a transportation company would be most concerned about a crash resulting in injuries or fatalities.
The process of anticipating crises, however, must also include generic crises such as natural disasters, fires, labor disruptions, violent attacks, business misconduct or circumstantial victimization. Every organization faces a unique combination of potential crises and planning should be tailored to that specific organization.
Crisis preparation requires participation from multiple people in an organization. At a minimum, top management, public relations, field operations, technical support, and human resources departments need to be part of the planning. Employees in the field, however, are usually the first on the scene of an accident, for example, so their input into planning is essential.
- Form A Management Team.
The best way to start a crisis management program is to form a management team or designate a management employee to analyze the workplace to determine where potential problems are and then how to fix them.
Management will need to review existing crisis management measures and consider what new measures should be taken. The team should also identify the likely sources of workplace crises and tailor its problem-solving efforts to address each source. If third parties are the likely source of a crisis, extra security measures for example, may be considered.
If violence is likely to be confined to acts between employees, the critical issues the team must address include supervision, handling employee complaints, and recognition of potentially hazardous situations. This team must also have the employees full support to succeed.
Sources Of Crisis In The Workplace
Traffic accidents and work site catastrophes are perhaps the most common events that trigger a work-related crisis. Nationally, there were nearly 40,000 fatal traffic accidents last year. Two thirds of those fatalities involved the driver. Defensive driving is, of course, the best prevention, but company sponsored and mandated skills programs also make the point to employees.
Workplace violence is also a crisis trigger. The Columbine School Massacre, Mark Bartons killing spree at his Atlanta day trading firm, and Anthony Deculits shootings in a Milwaukee post office are grim reminders that workplace violence can strike anywhere. A study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that workplace violence accounts for 17 percent of all workplace fatalities, making it the second leading cause of job-related deaths. The same study showed that workplace violence accounts for 40 percent of womens workplace fatalities, making it the number one cause of job-related death for women. Employers and employees alike must be prepared for workplace violence before it happens.
- Cooperate With The Investigation.
It is company policy at most employers to cooperate with all government investigations. Employees may decide whether or not to speak to any other investigator, but in the event of any interview, employers want to ask that employees notify the company in advance so a representative can be present. In most cases, the company will need to conduct its own investigation.
- Refer The Media To The Company.
It may also be prudent company policy that all requests for information or interviews from the media be directed to a single company spokesperson. There is often confusion in a time of crisis. Employers, who may be defendants in future civil or criminal case, need to speak with a single voice to members of the media. This includes all reporters and private investigators.
For more information, contact John D. Finerty, Jr. at Michael Best & Friedrich at (414) 225-8269 or on the Internet at JDFinerty@mbf-law.com.