Safety and OSHA News

Employee died of ‘overwork’

“I’m working myself to death.” Officials in Japan take that notion seriously and are holding companies accountable. The latest case involves a restaurant manager.

A government labor official says a McDonald’s store manager who died of a brain hemorrhage was a victim of “karoshi” — death by overwork.

The 41-year-old woman had worked more than 80 hours of overtime per month on average for the six months before her death. She suffered from headaches for three weeks before the brain hemorrhage.

She collapsed during a training program and died in the hospital three days later.

The determination that work caused her death makes her dependent family members eligible to receive a public pension.

Japan’s welfare and labor ministry investigates whether deaths are caused by overwork if the employee worked 80 or more hours of overtime for the preceding six months or 100 hours for the previous one month.

The ministry attributes about 150 deaths each year to karoshi, usually through strokes or heart attacks.

Earlier this year, a judge ruled a man’s suicide was due to his working conditions and ordered his employer to pay 100 million yen ($1.2 million) to his surviving relatives.

A judge ruled the company, an agricultural co-operative, failed to fulfill its duty to ensure workplace safety and prevent his death.

Do you think it’s possible to determine if an employee’s stroke or heart attack was caused by working too many hours? Let us know in the Comments Box below.

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  • Eric

    I don’t know. When I was younger, much younger, I averaged 70 hours a week for about 3 years and I lived through it. It was hard work too, in a cotton mill, not pushing papers or anything like that. Almost positive that I wouldn’t survive it now though, but you do what you have to do when you have a family.

  • Lisa

    I think it is possible to have health problems from overwork. However, that being said, only you have the power to control your health. Make the choice to cut back on the hours, look for another job or move to another area that promotes better living. Too many people let life happen to them instead of making life happen.

  • Daniel

    There is a lot of pressure in the Japanese culture to overwork. I work with a lot of Japanese at a Japanese company, and they work at least 12-14 hours a day. I’ve heard that 20 years ago, some Japanese would work almost 20 hours a day and sleep in cots that they left in their office! It’s more than just making the choice to work less. You have to completely change the mindset and culture of these people. Most of their self-esteem comes from how successful they are at work. It’s a miserable life, but that’s all a lot of them know.

  • T.C.

    Common problem in our culture and others. People are not forced but compelled to work by the culture that says you must do what is necessary to get the job done. Ive worked in excess of 50 hrs a week for the last 30 years. Wish I could get some of those back now that Im nearing retirement.

  • Mike J.

    Different peole have different limits. I worked three jobs, one full time and two part time and went to school part time for a year in my early thirties in order to accomplish a career change and let my wife stay at home with he kids. At about the 9 month point I made the decision that it was going to end and soon. I did well over 80 hours a week between the jobs, school and commuting. Resulted in a successful career change, a dead car, and a divorce but no adverse health effects.

  • Darryl

    I recently talked with my employer about overwork. I have put in 3 years (2080 hours a year) work in the last two years. Many 80-90 hour weeks.
    I did tell my employer there is no sense in me letting them work me to death. My job is now threatened, lliterally, due to me wanting overtime pay as a control measure to the amount of overtime I put in.
    As I am in the middle of this, it is hard to see the reality from every angle. But I did seriously begin to degrade healthwise.
    Its not a good thing to put in these kinds of hours at 46 years old, to be sure.
    I believe you can work yourself to death. I agree with Lisa, you may have to really change your life.
    I am critical to my company due to my skill set, and yet it is easy for the company to overlook the amount of time 1 man puts in, as long as everything runs smooth.
    I don’t have the answers yet, but I do feel I am headed in the right direction. I wish good luck to anyone who is in the same boat as me!
    Carpe diem quam minimum credula postero.

  • Lisa

    Darryl-Kudos to you for talking with your employer. Over the years my husband has watched several of his co-workers die from heart attacks, cancer, etc. and they all worked huge amounts of hours. At their funerals, their family members all said they wished they had spent more time with them. Do you think the employer’s representative who attended the funerals said the same thing? NO! Please don’t let your career dictate your life – let your life dictate your career. You will live a much happier and healthier life. Live for your family and your health instead. After all, it’s only money and you can’t take it with you.

  • Rob

    Amen Lisa. I was in the military for 13 years then after 6 months of unemployment started a civilian job. 3 months after that I had a heart attack at 34. I’ve always kept busy working multiple jobs, going to school, and now raising a daughter as a newly single parent. I decided to let some things go. Weekends are family time and I don’t work over 40 hours a week. What is sad is that some organizations associate an employee’s integrity based on the hours they work. My integrity and my loyalty goes to my family first. A company will always get someone else to fill my shoes. But I don’t want my kids to grow up and wonder who their daddy really was.

  • Joe Harwick

    I work over 40 hours a week at my day job and around 20 per week at my night job; down from a previous 29 hrs. per week. I have been doing that for 9 years. Before that, I worked a second job, for about 2 years, that was another 40 hours per week. I work at home, usually for about 2-3 hours per night. I am 61. Only problem I have is I cannot gain weight; I burn more calories than I consume.