Stressed out and disaffected white collar workers seem to idealize blue collar work as physically taxing, but not mentally straining. The stress-free blue-collar worker is personified by the character Larry in the classic movie, Office Space.
But in reality, many blue-collar jobs can be every bit as mentally stressful, if not more stressful, than white-collar jobs. The Daily Beast ran an investigative report involving suicide attempts by workers in Amazon warehouses. The mental stress comes from trying to keep up with the fast pace of work.
The complaints of Amazon workers eerily mirror those of Chinese employees of Apple contractor Foxconn, which notoriously installed suicide prevention nets to prevent further employee suicides.
I hear many of the same complaints about stress from about the pace of work from my clients who work in meat packinghouses. A work injury can often worsen the stress of keeping up with production because a physical injury usually makes it harder to do a job. The Daily Beast article profiled one worker who suffered increased mental problems after an ankle injury on the job impacted his ability to keep up with the demands of his job.
Mental stress is part of my many workplaces, but purely mental injuries usually aren’t covered by workers’ compensation laws. For a mental injury to a warehouse worker in Nebraska to covered by workers’ compensation, it would have to be directly related to a physical injury. Mental stress from being unable to keep up with job demands due to a physical injury could be covered.
In Nebraska, certain workers such as police, firefighters and other first responders can collect workers’ compensation for purely mental injuries. But even before the Daily Beast article about extreme mental distress among Amazon employees, me and other workers’ compensation bloggers have questioned why so called mental-mental benefits are limited to first responders. I’ve taken a particular interest in convenience store clerks and other retail employees are often subject to or witnesses of violent crime.
My view is the answer to why so-called mental-mental benefits tend to be limited to first responders is politics. Retail workers and non-unionized warehouse workers don’t have the kind of clout as police officers or firefighters.
First responders deserve mental-mental workers’ compensation benefits because they can be subject to terrible trauma on the job. But other workers can be also be subject to serious mental distress on the job. That stress should be covered by workers’ compensation laws in Nebraska and other states.