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Prepare now for effective incident response

Planning for what you hope never happens is smart strategy, speaker says

Preparing for an incident that may never happen could seem like a poor use of resources. But, if a serious injury or death takes place on the job, the investment will have been well worth it, Alex Kelly, CEO of Salt + Company, said today during a Worker Safety Webinar.

She opened with a quote she attributed to Bob Fields, manager of Emergency Services in Santa Clara County, Calif.

“The only thing tougher than planning for a disaster is explaining why you didn’t.”

Today’s webinar, “Effective Incident Response,” covered the basics of how to prepare and important resources to have at hand in case a worker is seriously injured or killed on the job. This was the second of five free Worker Safety Webinars hosted by the ATSSA Training Department and its Roadway Worker Protection Council. The first webinar, “Road Safety 101,” was held Nov. 9.

All webinars are free and run from 2-3 p.m. ET. Upcoming webinars include:

  • June 7 – Safety Supports
  • Sept. 13 – Creating a Safety Culture
  • Dec. 6 – Sharing Safety.


Recordings of the Worker Safety Webinar Series are available for anyone who was unable to attend the live event or wishes to watch again. The Nov. 9 webinar is now available. Today’s webinar should be available within a week, Pamala Bouchard, ATSSA’s director of Member Engagement said.

Before starting to share information, Kelly, who has a master’s degree in public health and directed Canada’s first Vision Zero Advocate Institute, cautioned that some people may find the discussion difficult, especially if they have lost a worker to a roadway incident. She encouraged them to come back and listen to the recording if they reach a point where they need to step away.

Grief varies for each individual, including the time and duration, she noted.

While her discussion focused on the roadway workplace, she noted that major incidents that employees suffer outside of work can have an impact within the workplace.

Kelly provided a PowerPoint presentation with lists of information such as what to do, what to say, how to handle media requests and the importance of debriefing, often multiple times about different issues.

She explained that the best time to come up with a plan is while everyone is calm and can collaborate on scenarios and solutions rather than under the stress of an incident when the physiology that comes with such experiences can interfere with effective decision-making.

Dealing with it now means the plan will be created in an organized, systematic way, Kelly said. She also noted that a written response plan is useful when discussing how things went and assessing ways to improve—all part of a debrief.

She also explained that creating the response plan is not “a one and done project” but requires periodic reviews to update it for things such as staffing changes and policy or regulatory updates.

Those reviews also serve to mitigate risks, she added.

She provided a government-produced chart that shows the tasks of each group from start to finish of an incident but noted that for companies or public agencies, the effects don’t end when the incident is over.

She said that preparing for an incident includes answering the following:

  • How would you respond?
  • How would you protect your employees?
  • How would you help them recover from emotional trauma, the deaths of co-workers or injuries?
  • How would you help your employees get back on track?
  • How would you take care of yourself?


She noted that risk is everywhere and that roadway workers are especially vulnerable.

She listed the following five points to preparing a plan.

  • Create a safety committee that includes representatives from all areas.
  • Create a response plan.
  • Identify the right people for each role such as communications, technical, staff training.
  • Revisit the plan regularly.
  • Mitigate risks throughout plan development.


She then shared bulleted lists for what to do, what to say and what’s needed.

She ended by emphasizing that people overseeing the incident response must not forget to take care of their own needs brought on by the stress of their role.

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