Critical Incident Worker Guidelines

Critical Incident Worker Guidelines

​​​​​​Critical incidents are disturbing events, like a workplace injury or fatality, and can cause very strong emotional feelings and reactions. When a person witnesses something like this, it can affect his or her coping abilities either at the time of the event or later. 

A person may experience emotional aftershocks – also known as stress reactions – after experiencing a disturbing event. This is normal and quite common. Emotional aftershocks may occur immediately after the event or hours or days later. They may last a few days, weeks, months or longer. 

Common signs and symptoms of an emotional aftershock or stress reaction may include: 

  • chills or heavy sweating
  • nausea and vomiting
  • dizziness and fainting
  • headaches
  • confusion
  • nightmares and sleeplessness
  • guilt
  • grief
  • being easily upset
  • intense anger
  • loss of, or increase in, appetite.

​Coping methods 

  • Find and use any resources available through your employer’s employee assistance program, faith-based services or your local community mental health services such as Klinic’s Critical Incident Reporting and Support Line in Winnipeg, available 24/7 by calling (204) 788-8222. 

  • Within the first 24 to 48 hours after the incident, exercise moderately for short periods and then relax at regular intervals to ease some of the physical reactions. 

  • Maintain your normal schedule as much as possible. Stay active. 

  • Try not to think of yourself as ill or weak. You’re having a normal reaction to a critical incident. 

  • Reach out and talk to people – they care. 

  • Realize that those around you may also be experiencing stress. 

  • Avoid numbing your pain with drugs or alcohol. Substance abuse may make it harder for you to deal with this event properly. 

  • Spend time with others - don’t isolate yourself. 

  • Give yourself permission to feel rotten and share your feelings with others. 

  • Try to help your coworkers by asking how they are doing and then sharing your feelings with them. 

  • Do things that make you happy. 

  • Don’t make any big life changes during this time period but do make some daily decisions, which will give you a feeling of control over your life. 

  • Get plenty of rest. 

  • Eat well-balanced and regular meals (even if you don’t feel like it). 

  • Don’t try to fight recurring thoughts, dreams or flashbacks – they are normal and will likely decrease over time and become less painful. 

  • If the critical incident has led to a physical or psychological injury, the WCB is there to help. To make a claim, you should report the injury to your employer, talk to your doctor or ask to be referred to a psychologist or psychiatrist, and contact the WCB at 204-954-4100 or toll free at 1-855-954-4321. 


Many people who experience a stress reaction recover completely. If the symptoms last more than four weeks, contact your doctor as you may be at risk of developing more serious difficulties such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). 

If a physician makes a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, you may be eligible for compensation benefits. For claim information, contact the WCB at 204-954-4100 or toll free at 1-855-954-4321. 

This information was adapted from WorkSafeNB’s Critical Incident Information Sheet.

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