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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Heart Disease Associated With Overtime Work

New studies just published establish the causal relationship of overtime work with an increased risk of heart disease resulting in a greater risk of cardiovascular death, nonfatal myocardial infarction and angina. Workers who put in just one or two extra hours a day did not appear to have an elevated risk of heart disease events, the researchers reported online in the European Heart Journal.

The study concludes that overtime work is related to increased risk of incident CHD independently of conventional risk factors. These findings suggest that overtime work adversely affects coronary health.

A major step towards liberalizing the Workers' Compensation Act relating to cardiovascular claims occurred in 1962 in the matter of Dwyer v. Ford Motor Co., 36 N.J. 487 (NJ 1962). Gerald E. Dwyer was 41 years of age and was employed at the Ford Motor Company for a period of seven (7) years doing factory laboring work. After several incidents of chest pain and numbness in his left hand requiring hospitalization, lost time, and medication, he returned to work to perform activities similar to those he had previously engaged in, including the movement of materials. In awarding Workers' Compensation benefits, the court indicated that the effort need not be a single incident, but may be a series of efforts which in combination, if related to the employment, result in a compensable event. The fact that the heart was seriously diseased prior to the fatal attack did not preclude the awarding of benefits because of the premise that the employer takes the employee as he is, with no standard of health required.

In Fiore v. Consolidated Freightways, Inc. 140 N.J. 452 (NJ 1995), the Supreme Court unanimously recognized that an occupational heart condition is compensable under the Workers' Compensation Act.  While recognizing that diseases are complex and their causes multi-factoral, the court realized that experts can disagree on the relative roles of an occupational exposure and personal-risk factors in causing a coronary condition. 


In an editorial title, "Overtime is Bad for the Heart," the European Heart Journal declares that the study will have major implication on employers who will have to reconsider the risks of overtime and compensable heart disease.