Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Worked to Death

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.

-- 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.
Check out the accompanying "Drop Dead" fact sheet as well as a fact sheet featuring an interview with workplace stress authority Paul Landsbergis about work-induced heart attacks.

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.