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Longer Working Hours Raises Accident Risk

People working in a cafe
17th December 2013

The health dangers attached to longer working hours under the current economic climate were mentioned in our recent blog posting, Recession Britain Increases Stress Related Working Conditions.

Studies conducted into the effects of working for long periods of time without adequate rest have found an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and musculoskeletal disorders, as well as fatigue, hypertension, stress, depression and general health complaints.

While recent evidence points to the increased risk of heart disease by working longer than 11 hour days, surveys have also found that long working hours can give rise to more accidents taking place and the likelihood of more accident claims being made, especially after eight hours or during the latter stages of a long work shift.

The risk of suffering accident or injury increases by over 60 per cent during overtime, and working more than 12 hours a day can also raise the risk by more than a third. Despite nearly a 25 per cent greater risk by working a 60-hour week, 3.6million people in the UK (14 per cent of the working population) work more than 48 hours a week.

One US study, which looked at over 110,00 employment records between 1987 and 2000, found over 5,100 work-related injuries and illnesses, including stress, cuts, burns and muscle injuries.

According to data on occupational injuries, which may also relate to certain claims for accident compensation, the workers in specific occupations and industries who are most at risk, include long distance lorry drivers, bus drivers, construction workers, nurses, anaesthetists and healthcare industry workers.

However, it should be noted that those men and women who long working hours are not more at risk simply because they are concentrated in essentially hazardous industries or occupations. The research suggests that long working hours are an indirect cause of workplace accidents by inducing fatigue or stress.

According to The Working Time Directive 2003/88/EC, workers in the EU are entitled to work no more than 48 hours per week, with a rest period of at least 11 hours in any 24 hours, and a restriction on excessive night work.

This means that employers are unable to force adults to work more than 48 hours a week, normally averaged over 17 weeks.