This article by MARGARET KIRBY is reproduced courtesy of Health & Safety Review
Working over 55 hours a week is an occupational hazard, which can increase workers’ risk of strokes and heart disease due to elevated stress hormones, poor diet, limited exercise and impaired sleep, experts warn.
Identifying and protecting workers from workplace hazards is a key duty for every employer under the SHWW Act 2005, and one of those hazards has been identified as excessive working hours.
Recent research published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has found that globally in 2016, over 398,000 people died from stroke and 347,000 from heart disease as result from working at least 55 hours a week. This trend has been on the increase since 2016, with heart disease increasing by 42% and stroke by 19%.
Many countries define a standard working week as 35-40 hours and working more than 41 hours a week as overtime work. Evidence suggests that working hours are gradually increasing in line with advances in communication technology. This has been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, with workers working longer hours from home and some taking on more responsibilities.
Worker health can be impacted in two main ways. The primary route is through biological responses to psychosocial stress, which releases stress hormones that can trigger an impairment in the regulation of the cardiovascular system. The second route is the way workers respond to the increase in work-related stress. This can result in more alcohol consumption, tobacco smoking, an unhealthy diet and limited time for exercise and sleep.
To address this occupational hazard, the report recommends that regulation and policy is introduced to ensure workers’ wellbeing, health and safety is protected by banning mandatory overtime and ensuring maximum limits on working time. It also suggests that employees share working hours, so they do not exceed 55 hours.
In Ireland steps are already being taken to address this hazard, with the publication of the HSA’s Guidance on Working from Home where stress and health is considered, and also the Code of Practice on the Right to Disconnect, whereby all workers have a right to disconnect from work in order to have a better work/life balance.
To view the full report, click on https://tinyurl.com/wapueh32
Article by MARGARET KIRBY_______________________________________
This article is reproduced courtesy of Health & Safety Review.
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