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WORKED TO DEATH
New Zealand Council of Trade Unions
5 August, 2003
Website Highlights Epidemic of Overwork
The New Zealand Council of Trade Unions is backing today's launch of a website which gives global support to the campaign for work-life balance.
UK-based Hazards magazine is launching the website, www.hazards.org/workedtodeath, which draws attention to the global epidemic of deaths caused by overwork.
"The reports on this site show the dire consequences of overwork including, in extreme cases, death," CTU President Ross Wilson said today.
"All over the world, the challenge is to balance secure work, with time
for family and a healthy lifestyle."
Recognising the problem of overwork, the CTU is running a campaign for work-life balance called 'Get a Life!'
CTU research in 2002 revealed the consequences of overwork for ordinary New Zealanders. The 'Thirty Families' project was based on a series of interviews with working families, and the interim report detailed the effects of long working hours.
The report found that long hours were having a serious impact on workers' ability to balance work with relationships, family life, and participation in the community.
It said that incredible stress was being placed on workers and their families by long hours and heavy workloads.
For further information contact:
Ross Wilson Tel: (04) 802-3812.
Tuesday 5 August 2003
Attention: industrial, business and health correspondents
Workers exposed to stress for at least half their working lives are 25 per cent more likely to die from a heart attack, and have 50 per cent higher odds of suffering a fatal stroke. Also, blue-collar workers are more prone to such illnesses than executives. These facts are exposed in the ‘modern workers health check’ featured in the latest issue of TUC backed Hazards magazine out today (Tuesday).
TUC research shows that stress is Britain’s number one workplace health
hazard. Now the ‘modern workers health check’ reveals worldwide evidence
of employees being worked into the ground:
An individual’s mental health deteriorates when a change in workload results in higher demands, less control and reduced support. Poor management planning and organisation can lead to heart disease.
Working for unreasonable and unfair bosses leads to dangerously high blood pressure.
Workers are smoking, drinking and ‘slobbing out’ to deal with workplace stress.
Long-term work-related stress is worse for the heart than aging 30 years or gaining 40lbs in weight.
Brendan Barber, TUC General Secretary, said:
'Stress at work is cutting workers’ lives short. This enormous strain on individuals and society will only end when we tackle the causes of stress such as overwork and the long-hours culture The UK needs a workforce that works well and stays well.'
US stress researcher Paul Landsbergis tells Hazards that long term stress at work is far more likely on the shopfloor than in the boardroom. Research he has worked on shows that it is manual workers, not executives, that are at greatest risk from stress related illness. Blue-collar workers are particularly at risk to heart disease due to high blood pressure, which is linked with excessive overtime, night shifts, and work with high psychological pressures and low rewards.
Paul Landsbergis said:
'If you are experiencing the effects of job stress the symptoms are not ‘all in your head’, but are your body’s way of telling you your job is out of kilter. And this stress can, literally, break your heart.'
Notes to Editors:
Stress expert Simon Pickvance of Sheffield Occupational Health Advisory Service is available for over the phone or broadcast interviews: 0114 275 5760 .
To arrange interviews with a TUC stress expert contact Ben Hurley in the TUC press office.
Dr Sid Watkins died when his body could no longer stand his "crazy" working hours. Stressed out teacher Pamela Relf killed herself. So did mental health nurse Richard Pocock. And postal worker Jermaine Lee. All died because their jobs were just too much to bear.
These weren't recorded as job-related deaths. And that's the topic of a new page of Hazards magazine -- Worked to Death -- assembled by British workplace safety activist, Rory O'Neill.
I've written here a number of times over the past several weeks about the dwindling vacation time and increasing work hours of American workers. Well, as Worked to Death makes clear, overwork is not just a nuisance, it's a killer.
When I was at AFSCME and at OSHA I would often receive reports of workers' deaths "by natural cause" in the workplace. These would never be investigated. Probably bad eating habits, overweight, or it was "just their time." I wish I had access to this web page back then. This information would have come in handy and maybe have saved some lives:
The British Trades Union Congress TUC research shows that stress is Britain’ s number one workplace health hazard. Now the ‘modern workers health check’ reveals worldwide evidence of employees being worked into the ground:
Workers with stressful jobs are more than twice as likely to die
from heart disease.
So next time you hear that a worker has died on the job from a heart attack, look at the working conditions a little bit more carefully.
Stressed employees worked to death
UnionSafe is joining a global internet campaign highlighting the link between workplace stress and death.
Changing work practices, the demise of job security, escalating demands, and violence and bullying in the workplace are all leading to tired and stressed out employees prone to heart attacks, strokes, disease and depression and more likely to take their own lives.
UK research shows that employees exposed to stress for at least half their working lives are 25 percent more likely to die from a heart attack and have 50 percent greater odds of suffering a fatal stroke. The research conducted by the UK's Trade Union Congress exposes stress as Britain's number one health hazard.
In Australia one of the leading causes of stress is overwork and incidences of the condition are on the rise. According to Australian research:
The ACTU says Australia has the second longest working hours in the OECD and, on current trends, will soon have the longest. It says 31% of Australian employees now work hours that would be illegal in Europe, adding that we now have one of the worst records in the world.
Teachers are one of the most overworked of all professions, with escalating demands now reaching titanic proportions. A new survey by the Australian Psychological Society says about 30% of university academic staff responding to its survey said they were working more than 55 hours a week, more than 11 hours per day. Yet a study of work related stress in Japan showed men working 11 hours were two and a half times more likely to suffer a heart attack than those working an eight hour day.
NSW WorkCover says cases of occupational stress jumped 21% between 1999/2000 and 2000/2001, with female incidences increasing at a faster rate than males.
Meanwhile, a national health survey from the Australian Bureau of Statistics says about 11.2 percent of the workforce is taking an average of three days sick leave each fortnight in an attempt to cope with stress levels. NSW Labor Council's occupational health and safety watchdog Mary Yaager says the research shows stress is a major problem.
"Australian employers are literally working their staff to death, with on the job stress, violence and fatigue edging their way up to become major causes of workplace fatalities.
"Stress and depression are caused by people not being able to balance their work and family lives, by workplace violence, long hours, a lack of fulfilment and fatigue.
"Escalating demands as a result of downsizing without taking the wellbeing of employees into account mean they have been forced to take on more and more responsibilities with less and less support.
"This is just one way the changing labour market is favouring practices that contribute to rising employee stress levels.
"Employers in the short-term might be maximising profits but this situation is not sustainable and unfortunately it is the workers that are paying the deadly price," Mrs Yaager says.
To visit the campaign website and to find out more please visit www.hazards.org/workedtodeath
"A new UK workplace health and safety website will also be helpful to workers in this country," said Andrew Casidy, General Secretary of the finance workers' union, Finsec.
"The website, www.hazards.org/workedtodeath will be launched world wide today by Hazards magazine. The launch reflects the website's international focus.
"Finance workers here will be particularly interested in the site's promotion of safe stress levels at work, because almost 20% of them have so far responded to a work/life balance survey initiated by Finsec. The survey is part of a wider campaign to reduce stress as a workplace hazard.
"Finsec's survey has asked participants to identify three major obstacles to their work/life balance.
"The results have, so far, overwhelmingly, pointed to low staffing levels as the primary cause of stress.
"The final results of the survey will be collected by the end of this month and the work/life balance campaign will then take on a new life as local groups of union members use it to focus on their specific issues," Andrew Casidy concluded.
HAZARDS MAGAZINE WORKERS' HEALTH INTERNATIONAL NEWS