Occupational Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to address the concerns employees face in environments where traumatic events can occur was the topic of a recent Pre-HSSE Conference session hosted by The American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago (AMCHAM T&T).
The session took place at the Nutrien Employee Center at the Point Lisas Industrial Estate on October 12th and featured expert analysis from:
• Dr Wayne Ramgoolam - Occupational Medicine Specialist
• Dr Ishta Rampersad - Occupational Medicine Specialist
• Cindi Nandlal - HSSE Manager (Point Lisas Nitrogen Limited)
• Charlene Gowrie - Organizational Psychologist Corporate Coach; IR Advisor
• Balchan Jadoonanan – HSSE Manager (DeNovo Energy Limited) and Chair of AMCHAM T&T’s HSE Committee
AMCHAM T&T hosted this session to enhance employer's knowledge and awareness of how post-traumatic stress from significant events that may occur both in and out of the workplace can impact workers. It also formed part of AMCHAM T&T’s continued efforts to promote mental wellness and prioritize the mental health of employees in the workplace. While PTSD is a diagnosed condition, Occupational PTSD has a wide spectrum from singular events in the workplace or at home to multiple exposures.
In her Opening Remarks, Melissa Pierre, Senior Trade and Policy Specialist at AMCHAM T&T said leaders must seek the best interest of their employees and people to ensure that they are operating in a space where they do not have difficulty coping with negative, abusive, or traumatic aspects of their jobs.
“The workplace environment should be a safe space for all. Safety doesn’t end at simply enabling preventative measures or policies to prevent an accident in the workplace,” Pierre said. “Instead, a sound health and safety culture in every organization needs to have leaders also addressing and providing the necessary support when their employees are dealing with traumatic events.”
Pierre said AMCHAM T&T’s focus on Occupational PTSD is meant to ensure that employers create a psychosocial work environment that promotes suitable training of employees, social support from colleagues and managers, and proper follow-up of employees after a critical event.
“We also want to ensure that all organizations are advancing their HSE policies to have clear incident management protocols in place,” Pierre said. “This means ensuring that crisis management plans are regularly reviewed and updated to meet with the latest threat or potential traumatic event. It requires having a process in place for reporting incidents after they have happened and a system for employees to access help both during and after an emergency.”
Dr Ishta Rampersad, an Occupational Medicine Specialist, explained that Occupational PTSD refers to PTSD that occurs specifically because of trauma experienced as a result of work or during the course of duty. “The diagnostic criteria for occupational PTSD remain the same as PTSD except that the circumstance must be that the person witnessed or experienced the trauma as a direct result of work.”
Meanwhile, Dr Wayne Ramgoolam an Occupational Medicine Specialist said that while it is unknown why some persons sharing the same experience may develop PTSD and others do not, the prevailing theory is that every individual, however well-adjusted, has a point of tolerance that, if exceeded, will result in PTSD.
He said several risk factors among workers can be associated with an increased risk of Occupational PTSD in the workplace. These include negative working conditions, layoffs, workplace stress, witnessing significant accidents, severity of personal injuries, frequency of exposure, personality issues, marital status, having negative interpersonal relationships, and a history of mental disorders or occurrence of psychiatric symptoms at the time of the event.
Charlene Gowrie who is an Organizational Psychologist, Corporate Coach and IR Advisor said companies and employers are beginning to become aware that it is not just someone having a bad day. “We are recognizing that this is not the case. As time progresses and we become more aware, people will take it (mental health) more seriously and those gaps will be filled.”
Cindi Nandlal, HSSE Manager at Point Lisas Nitrogen Limited says leaders cannot bury their heads in the sand and think this will never happen here. “We have to challenge ourselves in these topics (Occupational PTSD) that we tend to kind of stay away from. The inherent nature of high-risk organizations means we must prepare for these types of impacts.”
“I have been very passionate about Human and Organization Performance (HOP) over the past few years,” Nandlal said. “The heart of HOP is the front-line employees – How do they experience work? How does stress (work or home) impact their ability to have safe outcomes on the job? What are the constraints and challenges they face and how can we give them the voice to speak up?”
Nandlal says a key role of organizations like AMCHAM is to support leaders in industries to understand how issues like post-traumatic stress from events like crime or being involved in major accidents can have deep-seated impacts on the organization and employees. “We cannot force all leaders in organizations to be more people-centered but we can certainly do our best at lobbying and influencing for change by this kind of discourse.”
AMCHAM T&T hosted the Occupational PTSD session in the buildup to the 27th Annual HSSE Conference & Exhibition which takes place at the Hyatt Regency on October 31st and November 1st. The event will provide participants with a platform for knowledge sharing, information exchange, and excellent networking opportunities with the largest gathering of professionals in Health, Safety, Cyber Security, the Environment, Business Continuity, and Disaster Preparedness. Registration is open at www.amchamtt.com.
For further questions or comments please contact: Melissa Pierre via email@example.com