Many factors contribute to creating a safe working environment in North Carolina. Creating a safe work environment not only encapsulates physical safety, but mental safety as well. When workers are relaxed, secure and capable for the job they are employed to do, the chances of getting hurt on the job may significantly decrease.

This may be the problem plaguing the North Carolina mental health facility workers. Low wages may be contributing to unsafe working conditions leading to low morale, fatigue and stress in workers. The conditions may be breeding grounds for a workplace injury. State mental health facility workers work between 40 and 60 hours a week, performing duties such as walking, teaching, cleaning and bathing patients. For these tasks, many workers contend they are paid too little and have not had a raise since 2008.

Given the low wages, many workers have turned towards second jobs, working an additional 10 to 20 hours a week to make ends meet. The exhaustion they face only adds to the stress of performing well in their primary job, given the fact that they daily have someone’s life in their hands. The low wage has also led to a high turnover among workers. When untrained workers replace replace experienced workers on a routine basis, the chances for injuries in such a hands-on job may increase. In fact, many workers cite dangerous work environment as one of the reasons they leave the job. Seeing familiar faces replaced by unfamiliar ones routinely can also add to the stress mental health facility workers feel.

According to workers, given the low employment rate in their profession, they are discouraged from taking vacation time and are pressurized into working overtime and covering more patients, adding to their stress. Given these working conditions, mental health workers are campaigning harder than ever for a recognition of their rights, including safer working conditions.

Stress not only leads to injuries among distracted workers, it can also lead to health problems on its own. It is important for North Carolina residents to know that if they are injured while at work, they may be able to pursue a workers’ compensation claim. A successful claim may cover not only medical bills associated with the injury, but also replace wages lost due to taking time off to recuperate.

Source: Worker’s World, “Mental health workers demand safety, rights and raises,” Dante Strobino, Nov. 22, 2013