Using Reflection in Incident Investigations
Safety in the Workplace
There’s no question that employees of social and human services organizations have some of the most difficult jobs one could imagine. The majority of my clients have front line staff that work with children who can become violent and put them in harm’s way every day. These organizations use various types of de-escalation and behavior management strategies, including Therapeutic Crisis Intervention, MANDT and the Crisis Prevention Institute to name a few. The emphasis of these strategies is to use non-physical skills to prevent a potentially dangerous situation from escalating into a physical confrontation.
After an incident occurs, the typical process may be to complete an “accident investigation” or “unusual incident” report, and use that information to provide documentation and prevent similar incidents from occurring again. However, sometimes these reviews focus more on “check box” answers and fail to get to the root cause of the incident. The most common question I get is: “What else can we do to keep our clients and employees safe?” Regardless of the behavior management program, the key is to identify the triggers that led to the maladaptive behaviors.
One solution may be to use “safety huddles” or “reflection huddles” at the beginning and end of shifts. Direct staff should have the ability to understand what took place during the shift and most importantly what needs attention. Achieving this is really a two-part process:
1. Reflect Immediately
First, ensure your staff takes a few minutes individually to reflect what took place, both good and bad, on their shift. Ask them:
- Did the children respond favorably or unfavorably to any of your actions?
- Was there any unique change in the environment?
- Are there any particular children who you’re more concerned with than normal?
- Were there any children that a heightened sense of awareness should be used with?
- What would you have changed?
Even though, the staff may have worked with this person before, discussing new situations that may impact their ability to provide quality care is crucial.
2. Discuss Together
Secondly, ensure your staff gets together to share their thoughts with each other. Their actions may help their co-workers operate in a safe environment. It’s important to remember that not all variables are obvious. An upset child’s day doesn’t begin when their caregiver punched in. Your staff may not know that a poor night’s sleep or domestic issue could be a factor. Any indications of such are the examples that staff should discuss together as to not impede a safe working environment.
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