The consequences of working too much can have fatal consequences. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this trend by extending work hours through remote work and eliminating time-off, including vacations. The toll on the American workforce is devastating, and the consequences on the entire workers’ compensation system are enormous.
US Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported 5,333 fatal work injuries recorded in the United States in 2019. That represents a 2 percent increase from the 5,250 in 2018. What goes unreported are the massive numbers of unreported cardiovascular and psychological consequences of overwork.
The COVID-19 Pandemic has accelerated overwork by blurring the boundaries between remote work, multiple virtual meetings, boredom, lockdown, disrupted social schedules, and parenting responsibilities flowing from children’s disrupted agendas.
The Japanese recognize the phenomenon of “overwork death,” Karoshi. It embodies common fatal causes such as heart attacks and strokes due to stress and diet. Mental stress is recognized as a leading cause leading to suicide, karojisatsu. [Note: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a United States-based suicide prevention network of over 160 crisis centers that provides 24/7 service via a toll-free hotline with the number 1-800-273-8255. It is available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.]
The lead editorial in today’s edition of The New York Times discusses this fatal trend and concludes, “Putting limits on work isn’t just a perk. It’s a matter of life and death. Less-affluent Americans need to be able to take time off. More-affluent Americans, who tend to focus on the benefits of hard work, should consider the costs, too. “Working Less Is a Matter of Life and Death,” NY Times, May 29, 2021.
The workers’ compensation industry can take a leading role by encouraging and promoting change to eliminate overworking. The Industry should educate the employees and employers and lobby for legislation to curtail overwork and its dire consequences.
Jon L. Gelman of Wayne NJ is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (Thomson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise, Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (Thomson-Reuters). For over 4 decades the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman 1.973.696.7900 firstname.lastname@example.org has been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.
Blog: Workers ' Compensation