Working overtime can sometimes be a privilege and can sometimes be an inconvenience, but did you know that it can also increase the number of injuries that happen within a workplace? A study published by the Occupational and Environmental Medicine provides evidence that “working in jobs with overtime schedules is associated with a 61% higher injury hazard rate compared to jobs without overtime. Working at least 12 hours per day is associated with a 37% increased hazard rate and working at least 60 hours per week is associated with a 23% increased hazard rate.” The study was based on a 13 year observation period where 10,793 American individuals participated.
A blog on www.mysafetysign.com talks about how working overtime can be like a rite of passage, helping an employee who wants to work their way to the top of the ladder in their company or industry. Working long hours can also be caused by some not so ambitious reasons like hiding an incompetency, work addictions and working only out of fear of losing one’s job. Smart phones have recently also contributed to our constant ability to overwork. We can work from home, from the coffee shop, while traveling, during recreational events, the list goes on.
The blog talks about the physical and mental effects of long work hours and stress on our bodies.
1.) Elevated blood pressure and risk of heart disease can be caused by a high production of stress hormones set off by our bodies always being in a high state of alert.
2.) Type 2 Diabetes can occur as sleep depression caused by overwork upsets insulin production.
3.) Obesity and cardiovascular diseases are more common as fatigue caused by long work hours lowers the amount of a hormone called leptin in the body. This hormone tells the brain when to stop eating.
4.) Metal fatigue and depression are more common in people who are over worked.
It’s easy to see that with all of these physical and mental reactions to extremely long work hours safety can be affected. Workers are not working at their best and mistakes can happen. Productivity is also not at its best when workers are overworked and working with these sorts of mental and physical issues. Another research paper by the International Labor Office shows that working overtime hours can actually lower the average productivity of a facility.
What is the solution? There is no easy answer. Over time and extra hours are a necessity in many industries. Maybe rotating workers differently, providing information on healthy living and services as needed to workers, health programs provided to employees, or extra breaks could help with fatigue and overwork effects. The United States does not have law limits the maximum hours worked by a single worker as other countries do. However even with a law like this in place I am sure overtime would still happen.
Blog: Sherry, Ritika. Death by Overwork and Other Dangers of Working Long Hours. www.mysafetysign.com February 5, 2014, February 13, 2014
Full study by Occupational and Environmental Medicine: http://oem.bmj.com/content/62/9/588.full.pdf+html