When most people hear the term work accident, images of industrialized work environments, such as factories and laboratories, may come to mind. It is easy to imagine suffering a workplace injury in a workplace that contains an abundance of dangerous machines or chemicals. However, workers at a one North Carolina mental hospital are upset by workplace safety issues they face each day when exposed to a completely different safety hazard, other people.
Routine exposure to patients who display assaultive or combative behavior can lead to serious workplace accidents just as easily as routine exposure to machines and chemicals. Outside of a recent hearing held by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and OSHA, workers at Cherry Hospital expressed their anger and concern over the unsafe conditions they face at their place of employment. They reported getting hit and spit on by patients, as well as at least one incident resulting in a broken nose.
Workplace safety can be an issue in all types of workplaces, and many workplace accidents can be avoided through proper safety procedures, including education and training regarding those procedures. The Public Service Workers Union, which represents the workers at Cherry Hospital, is advocating procedure changes and more extensive training for both hospital workers and administration. This type of training is aimed at reducing workplace accidents and injuries.
Although people in North Carolina have very specific rights under the workers’ compensation law to receive compensation for injuries suffered on the job, avoiding injuries altogether is obviously the preferred course of action. You can empower yourself and your co-workers to increase workplace safety by following the example of these hospital workers: get informed, become involved, and start the conversation regarding workplace safety.
Source: ABC 11, “North Carolina mental hospital workers question safety,” Feb. 26, 2014