Emergency services will usually be called after a serious injury at work, or medical care provided. The priority is ensuring your safety and that you get the right assistance you need to heal and recover.
WorkSafe is the Government agency responsible for workplace health and safety in New Zealand. They must be notified immediately if an injury incident has happened to a person or people carrying out work, or as a result of work that a business or organisation is responsible for. This link explains how to do this yourself, if they haven’t already been notified.
Workplace injury incidents can be traumatic for the person harmed, and for those who witnessed what happened. Traumatic incidents can have both physical and psychological effects on a person.
Serious workplace injuries may affect a worker’s life and work significantly. For some people, this could just be during the treatment and recovery period, but for others it may mean ongoing challenges or disabilities..
Whatever your situation, a Support Worker is available to help and support you, your family or whānau, and your workplace team for as long as you need it. You can call us 24/7 on 0800 842 846 to be connected with a Support Worker.
Any serious injury at work will be investigated immediately. There are usually several investigations underway at the same time:
- A police investigation may begin, depending on the seriousness and circumstances of the incident and injury. Its aim is to find out exactly what happened, in case there is any indication that a crime was committed that caused the injuries. Police will gather all available evidence and take statements from those involved in the incident and any witnesses. This may mean they will ask to interview you. Police may also ask for permission to take photographs of any injuries and to obtain copies of medical records relating to the injuries.
The police investigation can be very technical and can take several weeks, or even months. The officer in charge of the investigation will let victims and their immediate families know if they will charge someone with criminally causing injury, or not. If they do lay charges, the police will explain to you the next steps in the justice process. (You can learn more about Understanding the Justice System, Going to Court, After Sentencing and The Parole Board in the Practical Information section of our website.)
- WorkSafe New Zealand will investigate and enquire into the circumstances of your injuries. WorkSafe is the Government agency responsible for workplace health and safety in New Zealand. One of WorkSafe’s tasks is to carry out fair and independent investigations into workplace accidents. This is to establish the causes of what has happened and to identify actions that can be taken to help prevent to future accidents.
- A workplace employer investigation will also usually get underway. Every employer and business has the choice how they do this.
- Other authorities or organisations may also want to investigate the circumstances, depending on the situation, such as a worker’s professional body.
We have highly trained Support Workers who have in-depth knowledge of the impact a sudden workplace injury can have on people, the services available, and of the official processes that may follow. For example, a Victim Support Worker can answer questions you might have about the justice process, or assist you to write a Victim Impact Statement.
We offer support to immediate families and whānau, as well as witnesses.
If police have been investigating the incident, they may can introduce you to a Support Worker or you can call us 24/7 on 0800 842 846 to be connected with a Support Worker.
ACC and financial assistance
ACC can help cover the costs of recovery after a workplace injury incident. Your doctor can explain this to you and any forms that will need to be filled in. You can also read about what ACC covers here.
You may also have an insurance policy that covers accidents and injury
If you do, contact your insurance company as soon as possible. They’ll explain what you need to do. Every insurance company has different terms and conditions for their policies.
Different countries have different procedures after a work related injury. Advice and information is available from embassies in the country concerned and from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. They can also liaise with authorities from the country where it happened.
Early reactions to a workplace incident that causes injury can be found here, but in coming weeks and months you’re also likely to experience some other kinds of reactions to what happened to you. Your family, whānau, friends, and work team may also have their own reactions as they see someone they care about going through this.
Your recovery journey will take the time it needs to take. It might involve ongoing treatment and rehabilitation. You may need considerable time off work or additional care at home. The official investigation and any necessary justice processes can take a long time, and there might be ongoing media interest in the incident. This all means that what happened can continue to be on your mind, making it even harder to move forward.
You will react in your own way
Although everyone is different, there are some reactions commonly experienced by those injured in their workplace. If you were very seriously injured, your reactions will probably begin once you have become well enough to understand what has happened to you.
Emotionally it may be hard to believe it has happened. You may feel anxious about your situation and worried about its impact on your daily life, work and workplace team, family, and whānau. Some victims can feel guilty for not preventing the injury, even if the situation was out of their control, or they may blame others. People often feel very frustrated, angry, and resentful about their injuries and how they have changed their situation.
You might feel sadness or worry for others involved. You may feel gratitude for surviving the incident and for the rescue, but guilty if others haven’t been so lucky. You may be grieving for anyone who was also seriously injured or who died in the incident, especially if they were close to you.
Mentally you might find that concentrating on other things is difficult for a while. You may be thinking more slowly, finding it harder to make decisions, and being more forgetful. It might be hard to remember the incident – it might seem a blur and details could come back to you later. Or you may remember just some of it. Or you could experience some disturbing mental images or memories of what happened, nightmares, or troubling flashbacks – reliving what happened again. (See our info sheet on dealing with flashbacks.)
You might understandably try to avoid things that trigger bad memories of the incident, like avoiding going past where it happened. Other mental health challenges might develop, such as acute anxiety, panic attacks, or depression.
Physically you are dealing with the effects of your injuries. This may include the effects of any medication you are on. Other physical reactions to the traumatic incident can include difficulty sleeping, appetite changes, body tensions and aches, shakiness, a tight chest, breathing problems, stomach and digestion problems, or headaches.
Socially you might want to be near other people more – or need more time on your own. For those experiencing increased anxiety, staying near family and friends more may become especially important for a time.
Life can feel unfair, and you may find yourself thinking about some big life questions. It may be hard to make sense of what happened, especially if other people close to you have also been injured or have died in the incident. As you try to make sense of what’s happened, you may find yourself asking why questions, such as Why did this happen to me? People also often have lots of ‘if-only’ questions going round and round in their minds. Some people may blame themselves or others for not responding as they would have liked. The world you knew before can suddenly be turned upside down. It can feel more unsafe and uncertain. The future can suddenly look different.
Later on, certain sights, sounds, smells, sensations, or feelings may remind you of the incident. These can bring new waves of emotion and distress with them, and possibly flashbacks. Reminders could be, for example, an emergency vehicle speeding by, coverage of the incident in the media, or photos of you before being injured.
These kinds of reactions are all normal after a traumatic experience.
However they might not feel normal, and they might affect you and others more, and for longer, than you expect. See the tips below for coping with reactions.
Looking after yourself is important
Keep up any needed treatment for your injury. Get involved with any steps you need to take to support your recovery. Eat healthy food. Drink enough water. Keep up routines and get good rest and sleep, as best you can. Do some simple exercise. Take some slow, deep breaths. Spend time with people you can relax with, or with a pet. Spend time in nature. If you find keeping busy helps, find useful tasks to do. Think about what positive strategies have helped you before in hard times and do those things. See a doctor if you’re unwell, extremely anxious, or are having difficulty sleeping. Draw on any cultural or spiritual beliefs and supports you may have. Accept caring offers from others if that would help. Use your inner resilience.
If you have a flashback, it feels as though you’re back in the middle of your traumatic experience or reliving some aspect of it. This can be in vivid detail and during a flashback it can be difficult and confusing to connect back to the present and to what is real. To better understand flashbacks and ways to manage them, see our information sheet Dealing with Flashbacks.
Talk about what happened
When you’re ready, talk to someone you trust about what happened, such as a trusted member of your family or whānau, a close friend, your doctor, a counsellor, a psychologist, a respected elder, rangatira, or a Support Worker. If any aspects of your story are particularly disturbing, speak to a professional about these things. Talking honestly about how things are for you can help release the stress and emotional tension inside.
More tips for coping
To understand more about trauma and grief reactions after a traumatic injury incident, and to learn ways to manage your reactions, please see:
A few tips from people affected by injuries:
Accept and acknowledge your emotions. They are what they are and that’s okay.
Focus on what you can control. Use the choices you have each day as well as possible.
Set some goals – small or big. Work out the actions you can take to gradually meet those goals, even if it takes longer than you want it to.
Be open to ask for or accepting help from others. If this can make a positive difference, using help is a smart choice.
Keep as optimistic as possible. It’s not always easy but deciding to keep positive can improve recovery outcomes and help you get through stressful times.
Use your sense of humour. It can decrease your tension and help you see things differently. People say that laughter is the best medicine for a good reason.
Don’t forget the things you can be grateful for, despite everything.
Remember your reactions are normal responses to a traumatic event
Even though it may not feel like it now, they will gradually lessen in the weeks and months to come. If they don’t lessen or get worse and disrupt your daily life and work, it is best to seek the help of a professional who has experience supporting people after trauma and injury. Some people may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and need extra support to recover.
If your reactions trouble you
If you have concerns, see your doctor, a counsellor, a psychologist, or ask a Support Worker about help that is available to you. You can call us 24/7 on 0800 842 846 to be connected with a Support Worker.
- Visit your doctor. They can do a health check and support you with any ongoing issues, such as sleeplessness, anxiety, flashbacks, or depression.
- Consider talking with a counsellor or psychologist. They can help you work through your reactions and the impact the crash has had.
- Find a doctor, counsellor, or psychologist here https://www.mentalhealth.org.nz/get-help/in-crisis/find-a-gp-or-counsellor/
If children or young people have been affected by what has happened
See our information sheet for parents and caregivers about Supporting your child or young person after a crime or traumatic event.