Office Workers in Lagos Photo: TheCommonWealth.Org

Labour Force: Working long hours is a ‘serious health hazard’ to consumers, says WHO

*The World Health Organisation alerts consumers that working long hours is killing hundreds of thousands of people yearly in a worsening trend that may accelerate further amid the damaging COVID-19 pandemic

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

In regard to concerns raised about the way the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is accelerating a trend towards having longer working days in recent times, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has disclosed that consumers’ working 55 hours or more each week can lead to serious health problems.

The global health body in a report published on WEF Web site stated that in 2016, about 754,000 people died from stroke and heart disease, which was associated with long working hours.

ConsumerConnect learnt Maria Neira, Director of WHO’s Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health, said that working 55 hours or more per week can result in serious health complications.

The WHO stated that it is vital that businesses, companies and organisations put a cap on hours to protect their employees from damaging health consequences of working longer hours.

The Organisation Monday, May 17 also noted that working long hours is killing hundreds of thousands of people a year in a worsening trend that may accelerate further due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the body, the first global study of the loss of life associated with longer working hours, the paper in the journal Environment International showed that 745,000 people died from stroke and heart disease associated with long working hours in 2016.

That was an increase of nearly 30 percent from 2000, it said, adding, long working hours can lead to fatal problems, such as stroke and heart disease.

Neira noted: “Working 55 hours or more per week is a serious health hazard.

“What we want to do with this information is promote more action, more protection of workers.”

Likewise, the joint study produced by the WHO and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) indicated, that most victims (72%) were men and were middle-aged or older.

Often, the deaths occurred much later in life, sometimes decades later, than the shifts worked, the report stated.

It also showed that people living in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific region – a WHO-defined region which, includes China, Japan and Australia were the most affected.

Overall, the study drawing on data from 194 countries, said that working 55 hours or more a week is associated with a 35 percent higher risk of stroke and a 17 percent higher risk of dying from ischemic heart disease compared with a 35-40 hour working week.

Though the study which covered the period from 2000 to 2016 did not include the COVID-19 pandemic, WHO officials said the surge in remote working and the global economic slowdown resulting from the Coronavirus emergency may have increased the risks in consumers.

The UN health body stated: “The pandemic is accelerating developments that could feed the trend towards increased working time,” estimating that at least 9 percent of people work long hours.

It was further learnt that WHO staff, including Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the organisation, say they have been working long hours during the pandemic.

Neira, Director of WHO’s Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health Neira, however, said the health agency would seek to improve its policy in light of the study.

Frank Pega, WHO Technical Officer, also commented that hours would be beneficial for employers since that has been shown to increase worker productivity.

Pega said: “It’s really a smart choice not to increase long working hours in an economic crisis.”

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