The primary responsibilities directly following an incident are to ensure safety of personnel and to reestablish safety in the incident zone. These activities are immediate in nature, and in most cases, required before any post-incident activities can take place. But what happens after the dust clears on the immediate aftermath of an incident? What should workers, supervisors and managers be focused on then? These are important questions to answer because what takes place after the emergency is over can be as important as the emergency response itself. Today, we dig into the post-emergency environment.

How leaders respond to workplace incidents says a lot about an organization’s commitment to employee safety. Being too aggressive or too lax in post-incident response can negatively impact morale, trust, and candor from workers. Whether you’re a field supervisor, job foreman, middle management, or a C-suite executive, quality feedback and engagement from your direct reports is essential. Incident response is a critical activity requiring timely execution and sustainable results. It’s important to understand your role in the response and how your decisions will impact the team, both operationally and psychologically.

The goal of post-incident efforts is to accomplish 4 objectives: gain clarity, foster commitment, confirm abatement, and elevate communication.

Gaining clarity on an incident requires understanding what took place, the root causes of the incident, and how the hazard(s) can be mitigated. This information is gathered in the post-incident investigation which should take place once it is safe to do so. Without this information, it can be difficult to abate hazards and can also create challenges with identifying what training, resources, and guidance will be appropriate moving forward. Fact-based information gathering is required. Assumption, hyperbole, and second-hand information should be avoided. The better the investigative work, the more success you can have in other aspects of the response. If you’d like more information on best practices for incident investigation, see our toolbox talk on the ASA website at

Fostering commitment from associates can be challenging depending on the nature of the incident and the difficulties involved with hazard mitigation. When working through post-incident investigations, leaders are well served in keeping their focus narrow and specific to help the team understand what’s most important in the response. Keep the main thing the main thing. Stay consistent on your message. The objective is to gain clarity and keep people safe; avoid pointing fingers and playing the woulda/coulda/shoulda game. When team members know their chain of command is investigating for the right reasons (employee health and hazard abatement), they’ll be less likely to resist changes that could arise because of the investigation. They will also be less inclined to see the investigative process as a way to punish or embarrass those at fault. The way you engage your team will directly impact their commitment to the other objectives detailed in this article.

Abatement is always one of the end requirements of any post-incident response. Timely mitigation of hazard(s) to eliminate chance for reoccurrence is the currency the matters here. Anything less is a risk to your workers. If you’ve had success with the first two objectives, sustained solutions are usually easy to come by. The key is ensuring that your methods of abatement are compliant with federal/state regulations and do not create other hazards that are equal to, or more severe, than the ones being abated. Use the hierarchy of abatement, outlined by OSHA, as your guide.

Communication is key. We’ve heard that phrase used many times, and in a variety of settings, but rarely is it more applicable than it is here. Team members benefit when they recognize the shared value of hazard awareness (and reporting) as a fundamental element of a company’s safety program. Leaders should highlight this message copiously during the incident response period and through strategic touchpoints thereafter. The desired result following any incident is improved communication on the identification, prevention, and mitigation of hazards in the workplace. When this safety mindset takes root in your workforce, you’ll see improvement in training participation, safety engagement, reporting lag, and idea sharing. These wins, when sustained, lead to reduced incident frequency and an improved safety culture, both working in tandem to drive down safety metrics such as average cost per incident, days lost/restricted due to injury, and time lost due to incident-related activities.

One last piece of advice, use this article now, while the content is on your front burner. Share it with your team and start a discussion. Building preparedness in your workforce pays big dividends when an incident does occur. It will facilitate and catalyze the objectives outlined in this article. Being proactive or reactive on incident preparedness is an organizational choice and an individual one. What is your choice today?