How to Handle Work Emergencies

When you become a people manager, no one hands you a manual or teaches you a course on dealing with odd and emergency situations. If it isn’t specifically related to managing the work of your team, you are on your own. I am sure that thought will prove comforting to the employees of the world.

I’ve encountered a couple of employee situations that required me to think on my feet. The first was a health scare. At the start of a 5am shift, a middle-aged employee I’ll call Rick was passing behind my desk when I heard a thud. I turned to find him on the floor, flat on his back, unconscious. He wasn’t the healthiest individual, so my first thought was, ‘he’s dead’. Nothing quiets a call centre floor as fast as a dead-looking employee.

Fortunately, Rick was still breathing. I jumped up and started semi-yelling at him to see if I could rouse him. Most of my employees were glued to their chairs, just staring. This was actually a good thing, as they didn’t panic or get in the way. One employee did get up to hover around us, in case I needed help. I had phone in hand in case I needed an ambulance. Rick came to less than a minute after falling and insisted he did not need medical attention. He was a little mortified from all of the attention. I couldn’t force him to seek medical treatment, so we all went back to work. He made it through the rest of the day without falling down.

The situation turned out fine, but it could have gotten dicey. Every large company must have a health and safety committee and CPR/First Aid trained employees, but most of them weren’t around on a 5am shift. It had been 10 years since I’d gone through any CPR training, so I’m glad I didn’t need it. Plus there wasn’t enough money in the world that would make me want to give that guy mouth-to-mouth.

The other “emergency” situation I got saddled with involved an employee stuck in our elevator. Of course it was 6am on a holiday Monday.  I knew from my Dad’s tenure as a building superintendent that if you can track down the elevator company, they will come and free your stuck person.

I figured the company in charge of the building and security would know how to contact the elevator people. I was wrong.  The only guy on duty didn’t have a clue about contacting the elevator company. Finding the security guy had already taken a while. I was happy the employee locked in the elevator wasn’t claustrophobic, but she did need to pee.

I was about 35 minutes into dealing with this problem when the elevator decided it had enough of a rest and released our employee. (It might have heard her threatening to use it as a bathroom. Just saying.)

My boss wandered in around 9am and told me I could have just called the fire department. Didn’t think of that. Neither did anyone else around at 6am. Considering how often this particular elevator broke, we probably should have posted a large sign beside it saying, “When it gets stuck, and it will, call the fire dept.”

I guess the moral is don’t panic. Use whatever common sense you have and don’t be afraid to ask for help. If your company has a health and safety manual, you might want to read it before an emergency breaks out. It likely won’t help, but it might make you feel better.


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