PTSD and Utility Workers

As with military personnel exposed to injury and death, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can have significant effects on utility workers who witness a serious injury or fatality incident. It can manifest in several ways:

  • Flashbacks and Intrusive Memories: These can include flashbacks, nightmares, or distressing thoughts that disrupt daily life. These memories can be triggered by reminders of the event, such as returning to the scene of the incident or encountering similar work situations.
  • Avoidance Behavior: The impacted worker may actively avoid situations or places that remind them of the traumatic event, such as avoiding certain work sites or tasks, withdrawing from social activities, or even isolating themselves from colleagues and loved ones.
  • Hyperarousal and Anxiety: These can lead to hypervigilance, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and exaggerated startle responses. This state of constant alertness can interfere with their ability to focus on work tasks and may lead to increased errors or accidents.
  • Negative Changes in Mood and Cognition: PTSD can also lead to persistent negative emotions such as guilt, shame, anger, or a sense of detachment from others. The worker may also experience cognitive difficulties, such as trouble remembering details of the incident or difficulty making decisions.
  • Physical Symptoms: These can include headaches, gastrointestinal issues, and sleep disturbances. Physical symptoms can exacerbate the psychological distress experienced by the worker and further impair their ability to function effectively on the job.
  • Impact on Relationships: PTSD can strain relationships with colleagues, supervisors, friends, and family members. The worker may have difficulty communicating feelings or may withdraw from social interactions altogether, leading to feelings of isolation and loneliness.
  • Impaired Work Performance: Ultimately, PTSD can significantly impact the worker’s ability to perform their job duties effectively. They may struggle with concentration, memory, and decision-making, leading to decreased productivity and potentially compromising their safety and the safety of their coworkers.

It’s crucial for utility companies to recognize the signs of PTSD in their workers and provide appropriate support and resources, including access to mental health services, counseling, and peer support groups. Early intervention and support can help mitigate the long-term effects of PTSD and facilitate the worker’s recovery and return to work. For more information, reach out to National Safety Committee Director Scotty MacNeill,