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A contractor was at my work the other day when he unfortunately had a heart attack. I was quite shaken by the experience. How should my employer deal with exposure to unexpected traumatic events?

Exposure to traumatic events can be a psychosocial hazard.

Work-related traumatic events are incidents that can cause psychological and physical injury. The impact of traumatic experiences can arise from a single distressing event, or from the cumulative impact of many events over time, including direct or indirect exposure.

Our Exposure to traumatic events webpage breaks down how exposure to violent or traumatic events can be safely managed, and links to the ANMF guidance on appropriate post-incident support:

  • Employers should have post incident follow up timelines and processes for contacting involved workers
  • support and care options for all staff involved
  • information, access to and processes for workers’ compensation system
  • documented review of how the incident was managed
  • there are clear processes in place and appropriately trained staff are available to conduct critical incident, general and operational debriefs following incident
  • Actions taken as a result of an incident are communicated directly to the involved workers, and other staff who are potentially affected, without employee privacy being breached

If you or other staff members are struggling as a result, you have the right to:

  • Visit your own doctor for treatment
  • Time off to recover from your injury as long as it follows the WorkCover certificate provided by your doctor
  • Payment of reasonable medical and like expenses
  • Have your Union delegate or OHS Rep present when you talk to your employer about your injury return to safe and meaningful work in accordance with your doctor's recommendations

Have a look at our Workers' Compensation: What are your rights? webpage for more information.

Under the Victorian OHS Act, 2004, your employer has a legal duty to: provide, so far as is reasonably practicable, adequate facilities for the welfare of employees at any workplace under the control and management of the employer' (Section 21[2][d])

Our webpage First Aid – what are the requirements? provides guidance on how your employer might meet their section 21 duty, as it applies to emergency procedures and first aid.

The Compliance Code for First aid in the workplace provides two options on how the employer can comply:

  • Option 1: the Prescribed approach- with detailed guidance on how to comply with the Act, including the number of first aid officers, their duties and training; the number of first aid kits and their contents; and the number of first aid rooms and their requirements. It is suggested that this might be the approach for small to medium-sized workplaces.  "This approach provides a simple means of achieving compliance. However, if an employer chooses to follow option 1, they need to do everything recommended in the prescribed approach." (p5 & p7) 
  • Option 2: the Risk Assessment approach- this is a more flexible approach and involves assessing the workplace and the hazards to make appropriate decisions about what first aid requirements are needed.

Paragraphs 149 – 152 of Compliance Code for First aid in the workplace deal specifically with Automated external defibrillators (AEDs):

Automated external defibrillators (AEDs)

  1. Employers should consider whether it is reasonably practicable to have an AED in the workplace to manage the risk of death from cardiac arrest in their workplace.
  2. When deciding whether it is reasonable to have AEDs in the workplace, employers should consider the likelihood that someone will suffer a cardiac arrest in the workplace. For example, an AED may be appropriate if specific risks associated with the work performed at the workplace increase the likelihood of cardiac arrest, or if there are large numbers of members of the public, such as clients or visitors, attending the workplace.
  3. AEDs should be installed in well-known, visible and accessible locations. They should not be locked and should be clearly signed. AEDs should be maintained according to the manufacturer’s instructions, including replacing batteries and pads at the specified intervals.
  4. Anyone can use an AED on someone suspected of being in cardiac arrest by following the voice prompts and picture guidance. Training is not required
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