As quickly as incidents are neutralized in the guise of “public safety, all is well, nothing to see here”; the lingering effects however, remain imprinted long after within those responders and their families. Employees and organizations are then left to recognize, manage, and proactively seek treatment for disorder manifestations secondary to job related experiences with no real system in place (reactionary response posture). Most often this is without having pre-established support systems or streamlined processes ahead of the incident; whereas often times, intervention comes too late.
Unfortunately, what is not mainstreamed or as front facing are the impacts to those responders and how they are progressively managed and provided for through the pre-incident planning process (by way of organizational initiatives and benefits available). This project focuses on improving the current system(s) in place that provide for early recognition, process mapping, and creative fiscal program support for a municipality in central Florida. This project aims to quantify shortfalls in the mental health impacts and organizational programs to first responders and establish a more efficient method for early recognition and treatment options by private and/or governmental agencies.
This project was selected based on the key components that Scholtes highlights in the “Project Selection Worksheet.” (Scholtes, 2-11) As a group we were able to identify a rating of “1” in nine of the twelve selection criteria which ensured us that we were able to move forward with the improvement plan. The criteria are as follows:
• Management does or would give this project high priority
• I can identify starting and ending points for this process
• Collecting data on this process is relatively easy
• The process completes one cycle every day or so
• I can identify what a defect is for this process
• The process is within my scope of knowledge/authority
• I know who the process owner is and he/she recognizes the need to improve
• The sponsor of this project has the ability to commit time and resources
• The process will not be changed by another initiative in the near future
An Overview of Active Threats and the Long Term Impacts on Employee Mental Health
Since the industrial age the workplace and it’s inherit safety or lack thereof, has been the topic of conversations, campaigns and study. Safety has been defined in many ways over the years. Safer working conditions, the number of hours worked, the age at which one is allowed to work, the race and sex of those employed. The creation of The Department of Labor in 1913, was the first step in ensuring workplace safety. The creation of OSHA in 1970 further outlined the United States desire to provide a safe and healthy work environment for its workers. This was accomplished by guidelines, education and standards. From OSHA’s website one can easily see the Bureau of Labor Statistics started recording data in 1894 and produced its first report in 1912.
The report focused on frequency, severity, type of work classification and the manner the injuries occurred. The Bureau also recorded illness rates for jobs, such as lead poisoning and carcinogens. In the beginning the rate at which workers were dying was 61 per 100,000 was, which translates to 23,000 workers from a 38 million person workforce. Today’s death rates are near 4 per 100,000. A dramatic decrease, which was fueled by safer working conditions, regulations and enforcement. These deaths were mostly industrial heavy machinery, mining and risk prone jobs. American has in large transitioned from the days where a majority of its work force is required to do hard manual labor, and with the advent of many new jobs being farmed out to subcontractors’ industrial accidents are bound to continue their downward trend. Most people that are currently killed on the job (2020) are killed in transportation related work place incidents at 37.3%.
These workplace fatalities continued to decline and then in the 1990’s workplace homicide surpassed the number of machine related workplace deaths, and became the third leading cause of death. Unfortunately, workplace death and injury statistic continue to defy the odds and rise. Deaths and serious injuries in the workplace from employee violence have been a reoccurring problem since the early 1980’s when several postal employees in separate events brought a gun to work and began shooting fellow employees and bosses. The first recorded work place shooting was in at paper plant in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania 1967. In this and most cases of workplace shooting the offenders are male under 50, mostly Caucasian. This profile does not consider outside persons coming in and using a firearm to kill people, as in a robbery. Generally, there are two distinct categories when it comes to workplace homicide, robbery and non-robbery. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics between 2011 and 2015, 60% of Workplace homicides were resulted from a Robbery. A study out of North Carolina indicated that the businesses who allowed their employees to carry firearms had a 5 times greater instance of workplace homicide compared to those that did not allow employees to carry firearms. I would say that this would be an effective deterrent against the robbery workplace homicides, however it also provides a quick avenue for someone quick to anger at a fellow employee or boss. There was a small sample (8) of these workplace homicides where the victim being armed led to their death as their own firearm was used to kill them. There is of course no data on how many robberies were thwarted simply by the robber knowing the victim was armed and selecting an easier target instead. There is also a secondary small sample of persons killed by gunfire at work where the shooting was accidental. An example would be that of the non-robbery workplace homicides, 80% were preceded by an argument. One would surmise that all work place non robbery homicides involving a firearm would be the result of some argument, however in this study Males were also the most likely to be victims of work place homicide with varying degrees of race that would most likely yield to the number of persons in the work environment, until you compared that to non-robbery workplace homicide then if you were Caucasian you were 1.5 times more likely to be killed than other races. Most females that were killed in workplace violence, were not in a robbery, but were killed by a person they had a personal relationship. The good news is that robbery trends since 2011-2016 7.3 per 100,000 in 2016, in 2017 a 4% decrease, in 2018 a 12% decrease, in 2019 another 4% decrease, and overall 24% decrease from 2010, this according to the FBI. If this is the case and robberies are going down then the more pressing threat would be from the very people we work with.
So far we have illustrated a pattern where of the work place homicides have a statistically higher probability to occur in pro gun carry states and work environments. We have also identified that women who are employed are most likely to be killed by persons they are in a personal relationship.
Process Improvement Team
The process improvement team and their roles are as follows:
• Team Lead/Facilitator –
o As the Team Lead/Facilitator, Dara Hennessey oversaw the project and ensured that deliverables were obtained per schedule. Dara also ensured that all group members remained on task.
• Process Owner –
o In the above-mentioned process, all participating members are currently employed at various agencies within the Central Florida area. All members are the owners of the process. They also collected data that was utilized to determine areas for improvement and measurables that enabled the group to determine whether the improvement process was successful.
• Group Members –.
o As group members contributed ideas to help determine areas in which the process could become leaner and more efficient. Furthermore, each group member researched specific aspects of the final deliverable and assisted with the formation of this document.
Ensuring Team Cohesiveness and Efficient Meeting processes
It was decided that our team would meet at a specified date and time to brainstorm project ideas via Zoom. Our group utilized a popcorn brainstorming tactic. Popcorn brainstorming is a tactic in which “anyone can call out an idea, no order, until all ideas are shared.” (Scholtes, 3-14) We decided that decisions would be made utilizing a consensus approach which Scholtes (3-27) defines as “… a search for the best decision through the exploration of the best of everyone’s thinking.” Fortunately, we did not encounter any significant discrepancies and the group worked together efficiently and without major setback.
During our meeting, there were several process improvement ideas that were presented. Our team utilized an informal version of the simple prioritization matrix. (Scholtes, 3-23) We judged the presented ideas on the following criteria: associated benefit, feasibility, and potential success. The improvement process that we chose to implement was one that would incur minor additional costs, was easily implemented, and yielded the highest potential benefit (which could be measured in program outcomes).
Process Improvement Plan
The City of St. Cloud provides an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) benefit to city employees. The EAP benefit includes five face-to-face counseling sessions with a local counselor. Video sessions are also available. Second, the EAP benefit also includes a 30-minute meeting for legal and financial consultations. Third, the EAP benefit also offers resources and referrals for childcare, elder care, and pet care programs. Lastly, a 60-minute consultation with a fraud resolution specialist is available for assistance with identity theft. All the EAP benefits are free of charge to City of St. Cloud employees.
We surveyed 50 random St. Cloud employees to see if they knew that the City of St. Cloud offered EAP services as a benefit. Only 15 of the 50 employees surveyed knew that the City of St. Cloud had an EAP available. Of those 15 employees who were aware of the EAP, only 7 knew that mental health services were part of the EAP benefit.
As a group we agree that mental health should be as important, as physical health. It is our goal to bring awareness of this great benefit that the City of St. Cloud offers.
We examined the current process the Human Resource department uses for sharing the EAP benefits with its employees. Currently, the EAP benefit is shared in the benefit booklet as a small paragraph during the annual open enrollment.
Employee Assistance Program
Detailed Process Map
We determined using the process map that information needs to be shared with new hires and detail information needs to be shared at the annual benefit renewal meeting. The same amount of time needs to be devoted to the EAP benefit that is spent explaining the health, dental and vision insurance in the PowerPoint presentation.
Implementing would involve the Human Resource (HR) department. There would not be any upfront cost involved. The HR department would need to devote time to incorporate sharing detail information about the EAP benefit during the open enrollment process by including it in the PowerPoint presentation. Along with adding an individual page or flyer about the EAP benefit to the new hire packets. We have contacted the HR department and they have agreed to assist in implementing the information we have identified that is missing during the EAP benefit process.
The process improvement plan can be validated by performing employee surveys. The surveys will allow us to monitor if changes are needed or if our process improvement plan is achieving the groups goals.
Improvement Strategies (L)
Scholtes (5-30) identifies 16 improvement strategies to process improvement.
Process Improvement Plan Results (D/R)
Scholtes, P. R., Joiner, B. L., & Streibel, B. J. (2018). The team handbook (3rd ed.). Methuen, MA: GOAL/QPC.
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