Bad jobs are a problem Europe-wide

An October 2002 report for the European Commission has found that bad jobs are bad news for Europe's workforce - as too many workers are finding out the hard way.

The report, Social precarity and social integration, reports the findings of Europe-wide surveys and notes: "Only a minority of employees in 2001 were in jobs of high quality. Only 27 per cent thought that it was true that there was a lot of variety in their work and on 28 per cent that they kept on learning new things on the job.

"Only 18 per cent reported it was very true that they had a lot of say over what happened on the job and 21 per cent that they had the ability to take part in decisions that affected their work."

And the trend was getting worse, the researchers noted, saying for all four of these measures "task quality has grown poorer between 1996 and 2001."

The researchers add that the nature of your job is "the crucial factor" in determining your level of psychological distress.

"Those who were in higher quality jobs were very significantly more satisfied with their lives and had substantially lower psychological distress (conversely those with poor quality work tasked had much lower levels of personal well-being). A more detailed analysis confirmed that these estimates remained when further controls were introduced for occupational class.

"Moreover, both higher work pressure and particularly job insecurity had strong negative effects for life satisfaction and psychological well-being."

The report concludes: "Lower task quality, higher levels of work pressure and job insecurity undermined commitment to employment, reduced job satisfaction and increased work-related stress. They also appeared to have wider effects in reducing overall satisfaction with life and heightening psychological distress."

Social precarity and social integration, Report for the European Commission based on Eurobarometer 56.1, October 2002 [pdf format].

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Overworked the world over

Global: Cross-national comparisons - work time around the world. Centre For Applied Social Research at RMIT University, Australia, August 2002.

Australia: Eighty per cent of Australian employees want more family friendly workplace laws and a cap on long working hours, according to one of Australia's largest workforce surveys. Australian union federation ACTU's National survey of workplace issues covers more than 8,000 employees nationwide and found high levels of workplace stress, insecurity, financial difficulty, understaffing, excessive workloads and unpaid overtime.
Risks 92, 8 February 2003

Australia: Australia has the second longest working hours in the OECD. On current trends it will soon have the longest. National union federation ACTU says: "It is a sad irony that Australia now has one of the worst records in the world. It is time to once again civilise working time."
ACTU reasonable hours webpage

Canada: Long working hours and work overload are stressing out Canadians, an official study has found. Statistics Canada reports that in 2000, the highest proportion of working Canadians - more than one-third (34 per cent) - cited too many demands or hours as the most common source of stress in the workplace.
Risks 113, 5 July 2003

Canada: Canadian employers, especially large companies and organisations, are wringing an average of five days a month in unpaid overtime from increasingly stressed-out employees. Employees have less and less control over the amount of overtime they work, whether paid or unpaid, and men are exploited worse than women.
Risks 69, 31 August 2002

New Zealand: A July 2002 report from New Zealand's top union body NZCTU "clearly shows many New Zealand families are under severe pressure as a result of long work hours and changing work hour patterns."
Risks 64, 27 July 2002

UK: In February 2002, TUC declared overwork in the UK "a national disgrace." A TUC report, About time: a new agenda for shaping working life, said more people were working in excess of 48-hours-a-week than were 10 years ago.
About Time: a new agenda for shaping working life, TUC, February 2002.

UK: Figures from the Office of National Statistics show "burn-out Britain persists," UK union federation TUC said. The union body's general secretary commented: "We now live in 'Burn-Out Britain', where one in six people work more than 48 hours a week and one in ten men work more than 55 hours a week." Burn-out Britain persists.
TUC news release, 8 August 2002

USA: Nearly three-fourth of working adults say they have little or no control over their work schedules. Excessive employer demands for mandatory overtime are creating real family and caregiving crises, and more and more workers report they are required to work odd and irregular shifts.
AFL-CIO family-friendly work schedules webpage

USA: A decade long obsession with productivity has been healthy for the corporate bottom line, but workers in the USA say they are paying for it with exhaustion and pain. "To compete more effectively, many companies have restructured themselves and downsized their work forces," researchers from the government's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health said, adding: "The revolutionary changes occurring in today's workplace have far outpaced our understanding of their implications for work-life quality and safety, and health on the job."
Risks 61, 6 July 2002

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US workers hit by depression era hours

If you're reading this, you're probably not on vacation. And you aren't alone. That's because, according to a 27 July 2003 article in the Washington Post, "Americans manage to live with the stingiest vacation allotment in the industrialized world - 8.1 days after a year on the job, 10.2 days after three years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics."

And it's getting worse: "We're now logging more hours on the job than we have since the 1920s. Almost 40 per cent of us work more than 50 hours a week."

Vacations are being downsized by the same forces that brought us soaring work weeks: labor cutbacks, a sense of false urgency created by tech tools, fear and, most of all, guilt. Managers use the climate of job insecurity to stall, cancel and abbreviate paid leave, while piling on guilt. The message, overt or implied, is that it would be a burden on the company to take all your vacation days - or any.

Not only have studies found that short vactions are bad for productivity, but they're also bad for your health: Overwork doesn't just cost employees. The tab paid by business for job stress is $150 billion a year, according to one study.

Yet vacations can cure even the worst form of stress - burnout-- by re-gathering crashed emotional resources, say researchers. But it takes two weeks for this process to occur, says one study, which is why long weekends aren't vacations. An annual vacation can also cut the risk of heart attack by 30 per cent in men and 50 per cent in women.

Feeling overworked: When work becomes too much, a 2001 study from the Families and Work Institute (FWI), found nearly one-third of US employees often or very often feel overworked or overwhelmed by how much work they have to do. Overworked respondents were far more likely to complain of poor health.

Confined Space, 28 July 2003

FWI news release and Feeling overworked: When work becomes too much, executive summary [pdf format]

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Britain's top killer - circulatory disease deaths

The fatal conditions that can qualify as karoshi - heart disease and stroke - are very common causes of death. What is unresolved is what contribution work factors make to this total.

According to British Heart Foundation statistics, cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the main cause of death in the UK, accounting for over 245,000 deaths a year: four out of ten of all deaths. About half of all deaths from CVD are from coronary heart disease (CHD) and about a quarter are from stroke.

CVD is also one of the main causes of premature death in the UK: 36 per cent of premature deaths in men and 27 per cent of premature deaths in women are from CVD. CHD causes over 120,000 deaths a year in the UK: approximately one in four deaths in men and one in six deaths in women.

Nearly all deaths from CHD are because of a heart attack. Over 270,000 people in the UK suffer a heart attack each year. About half are fatal. In about 30 per cent of heart attacks the patient dies before reaching hospital.

Deaths by cause in the UK 2001
  CHD 120,891
  Stroke 66,726
  Other CVD 52,650

Death rates from CHD in the UK are still amongst the highest in the world, and while death rates have been falling, they have not been falling as fast as in some other countries.

The British Heart Foundation says the premature death rate from CHD is 58 per cent higher for men who are manual workers than non-manual workers.The rate of female manual workers is more than twice as high as that for female non-manual workers.

This higher risk for manual workers parallels the higher risks these workers face for job-strain. And job strain has been linked to an increased risk of both heart attack and stroke.

British Heart Foundation statistics webpage:

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Karoshi causes

Click on image for larger view

Factors contributing to Karoshi other than working hours, Japan Labour Bulletin, vol.41, no.2, 1 February 2002.

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Six figure payout for overwork stress

A young UK financial adviser for Pearl Assurance has obtained six-figure compensation for work-related stress.

The Amicus-MSF member routinely worked 75 hours per week as a financial adviser over several years with dwindling back-up and support from his employer, says the union.

The man, in his mid-thirties and who has not been named, suffered a nervous breakdown as a result.

"Having recovered, he returned to work only to be faced with the same workload and lack of support which had originally caused his illness," says the union.

"He suffered a second nervous breakdown and was unable to continue in his employment. He is now attempting to re-build his life at a vastly reduced salary. The union supported the member's personal injury claim and we were able to achieve a six-figure sum in settlement based on his second breakdown."

Amicus-MSF says it "is campaigning to reduce stress and overwork in the workplace by encouraging employers to inform and consult with union health and safety representatives and conduct risk assessments for employees exposed to a stressful working environment."

Risks 85, 21 December 2002

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Working class compelled to work long hours

One in three fathers in the UK regularly breach the 48 hours a week limit set by the European Working Time Directive, a September 2002 survey found.

Nearly half of British fathers are barely seeing their children grow up because they work too hard, found the survey for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

While people in professional jobs put the long hours down to their career aspirations and family needs, working class parents were more likely to say their employers gave them no choice.

The researchers say government policy-makers should take particular notice of differences revealed in the survey between parents who have some control over their working arrangements and those who have little choice about long or atypical hours.

Ivana La Valle, a co-author of the study, said: "These findings raise important questions about the effectiveness of the EU Working Time Directive as it is currently applied in the United Kingdom."

Happy families? Atypical work and its influence on family life [summary] • Risks 73, 28 September 2002

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Government figures show 'Burn-out Britain' persists

Burn-out Britain is alive, and probably quite unwell as a result.

Responding to August 2002 figures from the Office of National Statistics, the then-TUC general secretary, John Monks, said: "This latest research confirms what the TUC has been arguing. We now live in 'Burn-Out Britain,' where one in six people work more than 48 hours a week and one in 10 men work more than 55 hours a week."

He added: "We are not mounting an argument for the work-shy but an argument for British business' productivity. Long hours are bad for workers and bad for business.

"This is case of shared responsibility: the government needs to ensure minimum standards and unions and employers need to work together to find flexible solutions to cutting long hours."

Risks 66, 10 August 2002


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Hospital cases -
worked to death in Britain's health service

In May 2003, the British Medical Association advised senior hospital doctors to ensure they are not working more than 48 hours a week.

A BMA survey of almost 11,000 consultants found that 77 per cent worked more than 50 hours a week for the NHS, and 46 per cent more than 60 hours a week - well within the karoshi risk zone.

The call came after a coroner has criticised the hours worked by a paediatric consultant who was found dead in a toilet at Southampton General Hospital. Dr Sid Watkins, who often worked 100 hours a week, died after he apparently injected himself with the drug Fentanyl to help him cope with his workload.

It is not a new problem. In 1994, Hazards highlighted the case of Dr Alan Massie who dropped dead aged 27 after completing an 86-hour working week (Hazards 49).

The July 2003 annual meeting of BMA's Junior Doctors Committee heard that thousands of junior doctors were still working excessive hours. The BMA's cohort study of medical graduates showed that more than half of senior house officers and registrars typically worked above the 56 hour weekly limit, and almost a quarter worked in excess of 70 hours a week.

BMA Time is running out guidance and 15 May 2003 BMA news release Risks, no.106, 17 May 2003BMA Junior Doctors Committee annual meeting

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Worked into the ground

• Research conducted for HSE and published in 2002 concluded poor work design and organisation does cause heart disease, and found that when workloads change, resulting in higher demands, less direct control and reduced support, an individual's mental health deteriorates.

Work environment, alcohol consumption and ill health. The Whitehall II study, HSE Contract Research Report 422/2002, ISBN 0-7176-2314-9, HSE Books.

• A major study in the British Medical Journal concluded workers with stressful jobs were more than twice as likely to die from heart disease.

Kivimäki M and others. Work stress and risk of cardiovascular mortality: prospective cohort study of industrial employees, British Medical Journal, vol.325, page 857, 19 October 2002.

• A bad boss alone might be enough to hurt your heart. A study of UK health care assistants, published the of Occupational and Environmental Medicine in July 2003, found those working for unreasonable and unfair bosses developed dangerously high blood pressure.

Wager N and others. The effect on ambulatory blood pressure of working under favourably and unfavourably perceived supervisors, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, vol.60, pages 468-474, 2003. [abstract]

• Burn out, job insecurity and fatigue can all add to the deadly mix, with the problem largely one affecting normal workers and not "stressed" executives (also see Don't go breaking my heart, Hazards 83).

Landsbergis P and others. Life course exposure to job strain and ambulatory blood pressure among men. American Journal of Epidemiology, vol.157 (11), pages 998-1006, 2003 [abstract]

• A 1998 study of the link between long working hours and heart attacks in Japan, found that men working an average of more than 11 hours a day were more than twice as likely to have a heart attack than those averaging 7-9 hours. The authors conclude "that there seemed to be a trend for the risk of acute myocardial infarction [heart attack] to increase with greater increases in working hours."

Sokejima S and Kagamimori S. Working hours as a risk factor for acute myocardial infarction in Japan: case-control study, British Medical Journal, vol.317, pages 775-792, 1998.

• What hurts your heart can also hurt your brain. A literature review published in the January 3003 issue Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that the top work factors associated with psychological ill-health are "long hours worked, work overload and pressure, and the effects of these on personal lives; lack of control over work; lack of participation in decision making; poor social support; and unclear management and work role."

Michie S and Williams S. Reducing work related psychological ill health and sickness absence: a systematic literature review. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, vol.60, pages 3-9, 2003 [abstract]

• When they are not working us to death, our employers are boring us to death instead. Research published last year showed that workers doing meaningless work with little opportunity for any input were more likely to die young.

Amick BC and others. Relationship between all-cause mortality and cumulative working life course psychosocial and physical exposures in the United States labor market from 1968 to 1992, Psychosomatic Medicine, vol.64, pages 370-381, 2002 [abstract]

• The ongoing UK "Whitehall II" study reported in 1997: "Low control in the work environment is associated with an increased risk of future coronary heart disease among men and women employed in government offices." Workers with low job control "had an odds ratio for any subsequent coronary event of 1.93 compared with high job control...", almost twice the risk.

Bosma H, Marmot MG, Hemingway H and others. Low job control and risk of coronary heart disease in Whitehall II (prospective cohort) study. British Medical Journal, vol. 314, page 558, 1997 [abstract] [full text]

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It couldn't happen here?

GP Dr Dawn Harris killed herself on 2 August 2003 after becoming depressed. Her husband Michael Churchill said: "She had become depressed because of the stress of the job she longed to do but also because she couldn't do more to help heal people."

In March 1998, UNISON established for the first time that bad management could drive a worker to suicide. The union secured £25,000 compensation for the family of mental health nurse Richard Pocock, who took his own life after being subjected to what UNISON described as a vindictive, oppressive and ruthless style of macho management (Hazards 62).

Father Gerry Prior, a 37-year-old Roman Catholic priest based in Livingston, Scotland, took his own life last year after being driven to exhaustion by overwork, his family said (Hazards 79).

Teaching union NASUWT said the 2001 suicide of assistant head teacher Patrick Stack, 45, could be linked to his "Herculean workload." There are other, very similar, cases. In 1994 Hazards reported that Joan Simmonds, the wife of Wolverhampton teacher Joseph Simmonds, blamed pressure of work for her husband's suicide, age 50 (Hazards 49).

Pamela Relf, a 36 year teaching veteran who killed herself in January 2000 after she was criticised by Ofsted inspectors because her lessons "lacked pace," left a suicide note saying: "I am now finding the stress of my job too much. The pace of work and the long days are more than I can do."

In March 2001, an inquest heard that 29-year-old teacher James Patton hanged himself because he was worried about a forcoming Ofsted inspection at his Birmingham primary school.

In July 2002, postal union CWU called for a campaign to make the industry harassment free after a report showed a black Birmingham Mail Centre worker had been driven to suicide. The report from mail giant Consignia concluded that 26-year-old Jermaine Lee took his own life after enduring constant bullying at the depot where he worked.

Another CWU member, Jason Lee, was paid £129,000 compensation by BT after racial abuse led him to contemplate suicide (Hazards 73).

Construction union UCATT launched an investigation last year after a study in East Kent found 16 per cent of all suicide deaths were in the industry, three times the expected rate (Hazards 80).

"Depressed" GP killed herself. BBC News Online, 5 August 2003


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Work suicides in Australia

Work is a significant yet unacknowledged contributor to some suicides, according to a new study from the Uniting Church's Urban Ministry Network.

The authors, John Bottomley, a Uniting Church minister and sociologist, and Elina Dalziel and Margaret Neith, both researchers and sociologists, call for the coroner and those involved in occupational health and safety policy to pay more attention to the involvement of the workplace in suicide.

Victorian coroner Graeme Johnstone, commenting on the study, suggests that when thinking about workplace safety as a society, we tend to concentrate on the obvious. In terms of the workplace, he says, we concentrate on traumatic injuries and deaths. He acknowledges the steps being taken to prevent workplace injuries and deaths and welcomes the report, which delves into the connection between work and suicide.

"It is hoped that (this) is just the first step in this vital area and that further research and investigatory work helps to save the lives of many individuals," Mr Johnstone says.

Findings came from three sources: the Victorian coronial database, narrative reports from families and work colleagues, and a study of overseas literature.

The coronial findings from 1989 to 2000 reported that work factors contributed to suicide in 109 cases. The authors believe this figure suggests a significant under-reporting of the number of cases, because of the lack of detail required by the coroner regarding work factors.

"Too often the focus of social health policy in explaining the suicide has been on the mental illness or family problems, without looking at the underlying relationship of work factors to these issues," Mr Bottomley says.

"This has meant occupational health and safety policy and practice has largely ignored the role of work factors in suicide, and the problems of work and suicide remain hidden.

"Suicide deaths are preventable," he says.

Some of the factors identified were:

• Work stress - 21 per cent.
• Unspecified work problems - 19 per cent.
• An argument with a colleague or boss - 13 per cent.
• Fear of retrenchment - 12 per cent.
• Performance pressure - 9 per cent.
• Lack of job satisfaction - 7 per cent.
• Long hours - 6 per cent.

Other factors included bullying, specific occupations, being subject to an investigation or review, inadequate supervision, work injury, violence at work and exposure to trauma at work.

In 31 per cent of the suicides studied, a work injury or work-related mental illness was reportedly related to the person's suicide.

The largest category of work injuries was back injury.

Internationally, occupations most at risk of suicide included farmers, female nurses, women doctors, teachers and police. The local study found that of the 109 suicides examined, the largest occupational categories comprised technical workers - including those in trades - (19 per cent), those in managerial or supervisory positions (18 per cent) and professionals including social workers, teachers and doctors (14 per cent).

Combined with work pressures, many of those who killed themselves were either categorised as depressed or suffering a mental illness. Alcohol and drug use was a factor for 14 per cent, and 58 per cent were separated or divorced.

John Bottomley also calls for workmates to be interviewed by the coroner as a matter of course whenever a work factor is mentioned as a possible contributor to a suicide.

"In many cases, witnesses identify causal links between work and other factors. The (coronial) findings could make more explicit the implicit narratives in these cases that identify witnesses' testimony of these causal connections.

"There is already recognition that many work factors (such as retrenchment, overwork, chemical exposure) cause injury, illness and death.

"Yet there is no existing occupational health and safety policy or guidelines in Australia for dealing with how these work factors may contribute to suicide."

When work is a killer, The Age, 16 November 2002

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Work blamed for New Zealand suicide deaths

Coroners have linked two suicides in New Zealand to workplace pressures.

In June 1003, the government agency charged with regulating workplace safety was implicated in the stress-related suicide of one of its own senior inspectors.

Northland coroner Peter Mahood said that while there wasconsiderable personal concern about Ronald Noel Ward (right), the Occupational Safety and Health Service (OSH) failed to recognise fully and deal adequately with a "terribly stressful situation" facing the inspector during restructuring.

The coroner found after an extended inquest that Mr Ward, 50, OSH's former national agricultural co-ordinator, died after shooting himself at his home in Whangarei on November 8, 2001. The coroner noted an acknowledgement by OSH regional manager Richard Willis of more than one report to him that Mr Ward was crying at his desk, the importance of which seemed to have been recognised only at a very late stage. Despite a report from Mr Willis on November 6, no effective action was taken.

"Possibly that outcome would have been different had there been established channels of communication so that the receivers of the message were aware that this was a circumstance requiring urgent action," Mr Mahood said. He also expressed concern at an apparent failure by OSH to complete a comprehensive review of its procedures in light of the tragedy, and to debrief staff.

In 2002, a coroner ruled that work stress was the principal factor behind the suicide of a depressed bank worker. Michael John Smith, 41, an employee of ANZ Bank, killed himself on 22 March 2000. Christchurch coroner Richard McElrea said the bank was not responsible for Mr Smith's death but that its procedures for setting and monitoring performance targets added to his anxiety and mental illness.

Mr McElrea said the worst depression episodes during the month leading up to Mr Smith's death arose from anxiety over his work performance and his inability to meet the weekly financial targets. Only 22 out of 70 investment and lending managers could meet the bank's performance targets.

Don Farr of banking union Finsec said the union had 8,000 members working in banks and was contacted by at least one employee a week complaining of stress. "This is why banks have such high worker turnover because that's how these problems are resolved. People resign."

The New Zealand Herald, 27 June 2003 Risks 53, 11 May 2002

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Work suicides in Japan

According to National Police Agency statistics, out of the 31,042 suicides in 2001, 1,756 were thought to be company-related, including employees who had been reprimanded by superiors or made work-related errors.

Another 6,845 cases were attributed to individual financial predicaments, including bankruptcy and unemployment, the report says.

Although the report links 15,131 suicides to health-related problems, labor experts suspect many of these cases can be linked to overwork.

The Supreme Court acknowledgment in March 2000 that a 1991 Dentsu Inc. employee's suicide was a case of "karo-jisatsu," or suicide resulting from overwork, had a major impact on companies.

It was the first such judgment that clearly held a company liable for failing to protect an employee's mental and physical health from work stress and fatigue.

Firms turn to counsellors amid rise in work-related suicides. The Japan Times, 10 May 2003

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Japan: Toyota widow compensated for work suicide

The widow of a Toyota Motor Corp employee who took his own life in 1988 as a result of overwork has been told by a High Court in Japan she is entitled to compensation.

Presiding Judge Katsusuke Ogawa said the 35-year-old's suicide was triggered by excessive hours and workload. "His depression and suicide both resulted from his job," the judge ruled. It is the first time that a high court has ruled that workers' compensation should be paid in a job-related suicide, according to a lawyer for the plaintiff.

The case was brought the Health, Labour and Welfare ministry, which was appealing the decision of a lower court that had also found the widow was entitled to compensation.

"The husband had accumulated a substantial amount of fatigue due to his heavy workload and working overtime every day," Judge Ogawa said.

"That, coupled with being appointed head of the labour union's works committee, made him suffer depression."

Workers' compensation awarded over suicide, The Japan Times, 9 July 2003

Risks 114, 12 July 2003

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Factory worker, 28 killed by forced overtime at Reebok

A woman working at a factory producing Reebok shoes in Indonesia died after being forced to do excessive overtime.

Asian Labour Update reports that the mother of two had asked her unit leader for permission to go home after feeling sick. This was after two hours of compulsory overtime at the Spotec factory. The request was denied.

The victim's husband said she was often forced to work 11 hour shifts. Workers could not refuse overtime work, and were also required to work Sundays. The case led to labour groups issuing a declaration calling for an end to forced overtime in shoe factories.

According to one report, a worker at the Pratama Abadi Industrial Factory producing Nike shoes said "the only rest you get is after you collapse at your machine.

Workers' Health International Newsletter, No.47/48, Summer 1996

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Copy writer kills himself because of overwork

An advertising agency was ordered to pay £790,000 compensation after the death from overwork-related suicide of a junior copy writer.

The April 1996 Tokyo court ruling came after the 1991 death of Ichiro Oshima, who had been employed by giant advertising agency, Dentsu.

Mr Oshima had worked 17 months without a day off, and with as little as half an hour's sleep a night. He killed himself a day after completing an important project.

Making the award against the company, Judge Toshifumi Minami commented: "The employee was totally tired and depressed. He was relieved when his project was finished but when he thought of the extremely long hours of work he had to face again the next day he fell into depression."

Hisamitsu Oshima, the dead man's father, said: "My son had never had dinner at home since he joined the company. If this judgment contributes to making a safer workplace, there will be some recompense for my son's death."

Workers' Health International Newsletter, No.47/48, Summer 1996

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New labour law accepts woman's karoshi death

A female designer who died from a brain hemorrhage after working up to 150 hours a month overtime before changing jobs was Friday acknowledged as having suffered a workplace accident.

The acknowledgement, made by an Osaka Labor Standards Inspection Office, was reportedly the first under a worker's accident standards revision that came into effect last year. The revision extended the period for recognition of work-related chronic fatigue from one week after the work was carried out to six months.

"Her death wouldn't have been recognized as a workplace accident under the previous rules. Today's decision offers hope to bereaved families fighting similar cases," a representative of the woman's family said.

The unnamed designer was employed at advertising-related editorial company until March 1998. In the five months until she finished her work at the firm, she reportedly put in up to 150 hours overtime a month.

After finishing her work at the firm, she took one week off then started a new job, but on April 7, 1998, the second day of her new job, she suffered a brain hemorrhage and died.

The woman's parent's sued the editorial firm in April 1999 demanding compensation for her death. The firm made a 40 million yen settlement with the parents in February this year.

Mainichi Shimbun, 24 May 2002

Employee "worked to death by firm"

A Japanese company president is expected to face criminal charges over the death of an employee through overwork.

Nobuo Miura, 47, died in 1999 after working overtime on successive nights over an extended period. Just before he collapsed, he is reported to have worked from 11am until 4.30am the next day supervising the fitting of a restaurant interior. He was preparing to go back to work after a few hours' sleep when he was taken ill. His death a week later was classified as karoshi, meaning "death from overwork".

Junichi Ochiai, 47, the president of a Tokyo interior fitting company, is accused of habitually demanding illegal levels of overtime from employees without paying overtime rates. The company is also accused of failing to conduct annual health checks on workers as required by law.

Japanese companies have traditionally demanded long hours from their workers, and most employees have taken this as an unfortunate fact of life. But in recent years there has been growing awareness of karoshi and companies are more often being held legally responsible for the wellbeing of employees. This is the first time criminal charges have been brought.

Daily Telegraph, 8 March 2001

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Garment worker dies from excessive work

On 8 March 1997, Carmelita Alzono, a sewing machinist at VT (Victorio Tan) Fashion Image Inc, died at the Andres Bonifacio Memorial Hospital in Cavite, the Philippines, after 11 days in hospital.

According to a statement released by her co-workers at VT Fashion: "Carmelita was killed by her 14 hour workday everyday plus overtime of eight hours every Sunday."

The workers denounced the system of quotas set by the company, that forced them to work 12 to 14 hours per day.

According to the Workers Assistance Center in Rosario, Carmelita - a 35-year-old mother of five - died because of the strict regime at the company that forces workers work the 14 hour shifts.

Following her death, VT Fashion made a donation of US$120 to the family.

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Ground down for Italy's world cup

In 1991, a 35-year-old building worker employed in the construction of the football facilities for the 1992 World Cup in Livorno, Italy, suffered a heart attack and died.

The provincial occupational health service (USL) asked for a post mortem to be carried out. The investigation showed no adverse signs of disease in his heart or circulatory system.

However, it emerged the man, who was a migrant worker from Argentina, had been working days and nights for four weeks before his death. His living quarters were provided on the construction site.

The Labour Inspectorate enforced improvements in the facilities, but had no power over his working hours.

Workers' Health International Newsletter, No.44, Summer 1995.

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USA: Rescue worker suicides add to tragedy toll

At least three New York emergency workers involved in rescue and recovery efforts at the World Trade Center on September 11 2001 have taken their own lives, union officials say. James Kay Jr., an emergency medical technician, shot himself early last year. Six months later, Daniel Stewart, another EMT, hanged himself. And on September 25 last year, New York firefighter Gary Celentani, 33, shot himself.

Philip McArdle, the health and safety officer for the 8,600-member Uniformed Firefighters Association, knows of about a half-dozen suicide attempts by other firefighters since September 11.

"That number could go higher, depending on what we do to take care of these people," he says. The New York City firefighters' union tries to talk to members, through newsletters and in visits to firehouses, about putting their health and their families before all else.

Still, McArdle says department counselling is being cut when some firefighters need help most. He worries that more firefighters may ultimately take their own lives.

Risks 126, 4 October 2003

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Workplace bullies leave three dead

Workplace bullying has claimed the lives of three workers in one Australian state in the past twelve months, a psychologist has claimed.

Meddwyn Coleman told a Bendigo Trades Hall Council forum that workplace bullying lay behind the suicide deaths of three workers in the state of Victoria. She added that for the first time in 25 years she is starting to see suicides that are related to workplace bullying.

In one instance an apprentice became seriously depressed following repeated "hazing" or initiation rituals that made him look like an idiot and set him up to fail. Eventually he took his own life. The tragedy was compounded when his sister killed herself because of his death.

A new study in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine warned there was a "strong association" between workplace bullying and depression, mental illness and, possibly, cardiovascular disease. Bullying and stress has been linked to suicides in Australia, the UK and elsewhere.

M Kivimäki and others. Workplace bullying and the risk of cardiovascular disease and depression, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, volume 60, pages 779-783, 2003 [abstract]

Risks 125, 27 September 2003Workers OnlineACTU bullying campaign

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Overwork behind another teacher suicide
A teacher who set herself alight had complained about pressure of work, an inquest has been told. Janet Dibb, 28, had been complaining to her father about overwork.
Risks 148, 20 March 2004

GP hanged herself through stress
A family doctor hanged herself because of stress at work, an inquest has heard. Bury coroners' court was told Dr Dawn Harris, 38, who worked at the Lever Chambers practice in Bolton, became "angry, very distressed and quite hurt" by problems at the busy medical practice.
Risks 157, 22 May 2004

Easier worker-related suicide payouts planned
The Japanese authorities are to ease the workers' compensation qualification for work-related suicide, where employees kill themselves because of depression related to work. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry says there has been a sharp increase in "karojisatsu", work-related suicide.
Risks 175, 25 September 2004