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Column: Workers' Comp

Opinion: Shouldn’t Our Heroes Get the Right Treatment?

By: | April 9, 2018 • 2 min read
Roberto Ceniceros is senior editor at Risk & Insurance® and chair of the National Workers' Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo. He can be reached at [email protected] Read more of his columns and features.

Yet another mass school shooting targeting children, this time one that claimed 17 lives at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School — has generated discourse about post-traumatic stress disorder in surviving students, educators and first responders.

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As the discussion expands, debate will likely include broader questions. Should PTSD be compensable for first responders? Will employees who witness co-workers die or get maimed in other horrific workplace accidents be covered? Their risk is just as great.

I want to add to the discourse on PTSD by sharing a personal story, and that of a workers’ comp colleague. We both believe we benefited from a treatment endorsed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for its effectiveness in treating PTSD.

The colleague, an RN, working as an occupational nurse, tried to save a co-worker’s life by administering CPR for 8 minutes. She also administered epinephrine after an allergic reaction closed off the co-worker’s airway.

Neither worked and arriving paramedics couldn’t save her. She turned blue and slipped away.

Memories of seeing the dying woman’s face and her pleas for her life haunted my colleague. She dreamed about not reaching the co-worker in time. She worried excessively that something would happen to her children, and she wouldn’t be there.

It’s not an entirely unique story. The Bureau of Labor Statistics counted 5,190 work-related deaths in 2016, the third consecutive spike in annual workplace fatalities.

Co-workers surely witnessed plenty of those tragedies. The Department of Labor reports that “critical-incident” witnesses may suffer from fear, guilt and chronic anxiety among other physical, cognitive, emotional and behavioral symptoms.

Memories of seeing the dying woman’s face and her pleas for her life haunted my colleague. She dreamed about not reaching the co-worker in time. She worried excessively that something would happen to her children, and she wouldn’t be there.

Fortunately my colleague benefited from eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. EMDR is efficient, because it can help ease distressful memories after just a few sessions.

She sensed improvement after two sessions and underwent about six.

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I first benefited from EMDR applied to treat trauma experienced as a child. I am now better able to manage situations that previously caused unnecessary stress.

EMDR dampens the impact of negative emotions. A therapist guides a patient to recall and reprocess traumatic events while focusing on a back and forth movement or sound.

A few months after witnessing my wife pass away, I turned to EMDR to help soften the jagged edges those memories generate. They are still unpleasant memories, but not as rough.

Some comp payers fear that paying for such treatment could lead to a protracted psych claim.

But helping employees who witness workplace deaths is the right thing to do, especially when an efficient treatment is available, and their future productivity and attention to safety practices may depend on it. &

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Black Swans

Black Swans: Yes, It Can Happen Here

In this year's Black Swan coverage, we focus on two events: An Atlantic mega-tsunami which would wipe out the East Coast and a killer global pandemic.
By: | July 30, 2018 • 2 min read

One of the most difficult phrases to digest without becoming frustrated or judgmental is the oft-repeated, “I never thought that could happen here.”

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Most painfully, we hear it time and time again in the aftermath of the mass school shootings that terrorize this country. Shocked parents and neighbors, viewing the carnage, voice that they can’t believe this happened in their neighborhood.

Not to be mean, but why couldn’t it happen in your neighborhood?

So it is with Black Swans, a phrase describing unforeseen events, made famous by the former trader and acerbic critic of academia Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

We at Risk & Insurance® define these events in insurance terms by saying that they are highly infrequent, yet could cause massive damages. This year, for our annual Black Swan issue, we present two very different scenarios, both of which would leave mass devastation in their wake.

A Mega-Tsunami Is Coming; Can the East Coast Even Prepare?, written by staff writer Autumn Heisler, profiles an Atlantic mega-tsunami, which would wipe out lives and commerce along the East Coast.

On the topic of whether the volcanic island of La Palma, the most northwestern of the Canary Islands, could erupt, split and trigger an Atlantic mega-tsunami, scientists are divided.

Researchers Steven Ward, a geophysicist at UC Santa Cruz, and Simon Day of University College London, say such a thing could happen. Other scientists say Day and Ward are dead wrong; it’s an impossibility.

One of the counter-arguments is backed up by the statement that there has never been an Atlantic mega-tsunami. It’s never happened before and thus, could never happen here. See exhibit “A” above, re: mass school shootings.

Viral Fear: How a Global Pandemic Kills an Economy, written by associate editor Katie Dwyer, depicts a killer global pandemic the likes of which hasn’t been seen in a century.

Tens of millions of people died during the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918.

Why it could happen again includes the fact that it’s happened before. The science on influenzas, which are constantly mutating, also supports just how dangerous a threat they pose to millions of people beyond the reach of antibiotics.

Should a mutating avian flu, for example, spread widely, we could see a 10 percent drop in GDP, mostly from non-physical business interruption.

As always here, the purpose is to do exactly what insurance modelers and underwriters do; no matter how massive the event, we create scenarios, quantify possible losses and discuss risk mitigation strategies. &

Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]