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Witnessing workplace accidents can cause psychological injuries

Whenever workplace accidents cause death or traumatic injuries -- in Iowa and elsewhere -- the immediate focus is typically on the victims, and rightly so. However, a worker who witnesses a colleague's death or traumatic injury can suffer psychological injuries. Similarly, those who help injured victims or clean up the accident scene can suffer what is called critical incident stress.

The after-effects of witnessing such incidents can be debilitating for workers. Along with anxiety, guilt and fear, employees may experience anger that can adversely affect mental and physical health, and prevent them from functioning properly. Other emotional consequences can include depression and/or ongoing nervousness and apprehension. The physical effects can include unexplained fatigue, headaches, dizziness, chills and more.

Furthermore, cognitive problems may include attention deficit, memory problems and difficulty to make decisions or solve problems. The consequences of witnessing a traumatic accident can cause behavioral changes such as withdrawal from others, eating significantly less or more than before and consuming more alcohol than usual. The sleep patterns of workers can also be affected.

Iowa workers who are suffering psychological injuries after witnessing tragic deaths or traumatic injuries at work will need professional counseling and/or medical treatment. Compensation for such expenses, along with lost income if work absences are caused, may be available through the workers' compensation system. An experienced workers' compensation attorney can examine the company's mental health coverage and also employee assistance programs. A lawyer can then provide the necessary guidance and support throughout the proceedings to pursue compensation.

Source:, "Accidents happen -- Here's how to recognize critical incident stress", Sept. 28, 2016

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