The paper summarizes research linking long work hours to a wide range of risks to workers, families, employers, and the community. The risks are theorized to stem from less time to recover from work, longer exposure to workplace hazards, and less time to attend to non-work responsibilities. Risks to workers include sleep deprivation, poor recovery from work, decrements in neuro-cognitive and physiological functioning, illnesses, adverse reproductive outcomes, and injuries. Risks to families include delayed marriages and child bearing, and obesity in children. Risks to employers include reduced productivity and increases in workers errors. Mistakes by fatigued workers have broad reaching impacts to the community: medical errors, automobile crashes with other drivers on the road, and industrial disasters that damage the environment.
Late in the 1970s, serious social concern over health problems due to long working hours has arisen in Japan. This report briefly summarizes the Japanese circumstances about long working hours and what the Government has achieved so far. The national statistics show that more than 6 million people worked for 60 h or more per week during years 2000 and 2004. Approximately three hundred cases of brain and heart diseases were recognized as labour accidents resulting from overwork (Karoshi) by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) between 2002 and 2005. Consequently, the MHLW has been working to establish a more appropriate compensation system for Karoshi, as well as preventive measures for overwork related health problems. In 2001, the MHLW set the standards for clearly recognizing Karoshi in association with the amount of overtime working hours. These standards were based on the results of a literature review and medical examinations indicating a relationship between overwork and brain and heart diseases. In 2002, the MHLW launched the program for the prevention of health impairment due to overwork, and in 2005 the health guidance through an interview by a doctor for overworked workers has been enacted as law. Long working hours are controversial issues because of conflicts between health, safety, work-life balance, and productivity. It is obvious that we need to continue research regarding the impact on worker health and the management of long working hours.
The Study Model for Future Occupational Health (funded by a research grant from the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Labor) is a joint research project involving various organizations and agencies undertaken from 2002 to 2004. Society has undergone a dramatic transformation due to technological developments and internationalization. At the same time a low birth rate and an aging population have resulted in an increase in both the percentage of workers experiencing strong anxiety and stress in relation to their jobs and the working environment and the number of suicides. As a natural consequence, occupational health services are now expected to provide EAP, consulting and other functions that were formerly considered outside the realm of occupational health. In consideration of this background, the present study propose the following issues to provide a model for future occupational health services that meet the conditions presently confronted by each worker. 1. How to provide occupational health services and occupational physicians' services: 1) a basic time of 20 minutes of occupational health services per year should be allotted to each worker and to all workers; 2) the obligatory regulations should be revised to expand the obligation from businesses each with 50 or more employees under the present laws to businesses each with 30 or more employees. 2. Providers of occupational health services and occupational physicians' services: (1) reinforcement of outside occupational health agencies; (2) fostering occupational health consultant firms; (3) development of an institute of occupational safety and health; (4) support of activities by authorized occupational physicians in the field; (5) expanding of joint selection of occupational physicians including subsidy increase and the extension of a period of subsidy to five hears; (6) licensing of new entry into occupational health undertaking. 3. Introduction of new report system: (1) establishment of the obligation to submit reports on risk evaluation and improvement measures; (2) establishment of the obligation to prepare a report on results of medical examinations in all sizes of businesses. 4. Introduction of a merit system into businesses in establishment of a new system: the application of the special merit system of the workers' compensation insurance shall be revised to add occupational health activities, cover business with 20 or more to 100 or less employees and expand the period of application for three years under the present laws to five years. 5. Ensuring of international coordination: harmonization of standards of individual countries for occupational health and safety; thorough (1) ensuring of international agreement on high-level specialist qualifications; (2) mutual recognition of qualifications of occupational physician, nurse, occupational hygienist, ergonomist, and counselor; (3) preparation of guidelines for occupations relating to occupational health businesses.
The aim of this study was to evaluate the lung disorders of the workers exposed to rush smear dust. A cross sectional study was carried out on 1,709 current workers (788 male, 921 female) in 80 factories. All subjects were asked by questionnaire, and health examination including chest X-ray was conducted for 661 workers in 35 factories. Lung function test was also examined for 119 non-smoking males among 661 subjects. Dust samplings were collected and total and respirable dust concentrations at 127 spots in 35 factories were measured. The geometric mean dust concentration in the workshops was up to 20.00 mg/m3, and the geometric mean respirable dust concentration reached 8.22 mg/m3. The mean quartz concentration of accumulated dust was 29.2%. The prevalence of radiographic small opacities profusion category > or = 1/0, according to the ILO 1980 Classification System, was 2.6% among 661 employees. One worker was found to have pneumoconiotic findings of 2/2 profusion accompanied with large opacity. The prevalence of pneumoconiosis (1/0 or more) correlated with cumulative dust exposure (r=0.192, p<0.0001). The similar relationship was found between the prevalence rate of cough or sputa and worksite dust concentration. In non-smokers, a positive association was found between the prevalence of cough and occupational exposure duration (r=0.080, p=0.004). Approximately 19.3% and 34.5% of employees suffered from respiratory impairment for FVC and FEV1.0, respectively. This is the first report of "rush" pneumoconiosis in China. Rush mat workers were found to be at high risk for pneumoconiosis, a preventable disease. Our results showed a dose-response relationship between rush-mat dust level and the prevalence of pneumoconiosis. Similar relationship between the prevalence of cough and sputum and the work duration was found for non-smoking workers but not for smoking workers.
Sleepiness in working life is critical and strongly associated to work related accidents. The relationship between sleepiness and head movements is poorly investigated. The pattern of head movements over time was investigated in a laboratory study with ten subjects either sleep-deprived or rested. Head movements were obtained by an inclinometer placed on the subject's forehead, and the recording was continuous. Results show that subjects when sleep-deprived moved their head more and had more extreme head movements compared to when rested. An increase of the velocity and the number of extreme head movements over time were noted when the subjects were sleep-deprived and when rested. The increase of head movements was more linear over time in the rested condition, whereas in sleep-deprived conditions most of the increase appeared during the first hour. No significant differences of between forward-backward movements and left-right movements could be found. When rested, the changes in head movements correlated with ratings of sleepiness, EEG activity, and heart rate variability. Head movements can be a used as an indicator of sleepiness.
The aim was to investigate whether the use of infra-red thermography (I-R) and measurement of temperature gradients along the finger could improve the diagnostic accuracy of cold-provocation testing (15°C for 5 min) in vascular hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS). Twenty-one controls and 33 individuals with stages 2/3V HAVS were studied. The standard measurement of time to rewarm by 4°C (T4°C) and temperature gradients between the finger tip, base and middle (measured using I-R) were calculated. Receiver Operating Characteristics (ROC) analysis to distinguish between the two groups revealed that for T4°C the area under the ROC curve was not statistically significantly different from 0.5 (0.64 95% confidence interval 0.49-0.76). The difference between the tip and middle portion of the finger during the sixth minute of recovery was the most promising gradient with an area of 0.76 (95% confidence interval 0.62-0.87), and sensitivity and specificity of 57.6% and 85.7% respectively. However, this was not significantly different from that for the time to rewarm by 4°C. In conclusion, the cold-provocation test used in this study does not appear to discriminate between individuals with stage 2/3V HAVS and controls and this is not improved by the measurement of temperature gradients along the fingers using I-R.
Noise is one of the hazards faced by workers. A cross-sectional study was conducted among industries in Negeri Sembilan with the objective to assess their compliance to Hearing Conservation Programme (HCP). The other objectives of this study were to determine the factors influencing it and to show the industries' compliance to each element of the programme. It was also to identify the association between compliance to HCP and the prevalence of hearing impairment and standard threshold shift. Data for this study were collected using questionnaires sent by mail and also the results of the latest audiometric tests. A total of 167 industries were analysed for this study. It was found that 41.3% of these industries fully complied to the programme. It was also found that the industries preferred to provide hearing protection device (92.8%) and least complied to noise control (61.1%). There were significant associations (p<0.05) between compliance and number of employees, status of ownership and the presence of officer in charge of hearing conservation programme. Having at least 150 employees actually raised the compliance to HCP in two folds (β = 0.717, OR = 2.048, C.I 95% = 1.063 to 3.944). The prevalences of hearing impairment and standard threshold shift were 23.9% and 5.2% respectively. There was no significant association between the prevalence for hearing impairment and compliance to HCP. The prevalence for standard threshold shift was inversely related to compliance. This study showed that compliance percentage need to be improved as an effort to prevent the hearing problems among workers exposed to noise.
To examine the effects of exposure to manganese (Mn) on the cellular and humoral immune system in men, T lymphocyte subpopulations, B (CD19+) lymphocytes, natural killer (NK) cells, and serum immunoglobulins (i.e., IgG, IgA and IgM) together with total T (CD3+) lymphocytes and total lymphocytes were measured in blood samples from 21 welders mainly exposed to Mn fume with blood Mn (BMn) concentrations of 0.6-2.3 (mean 1.4) μg/dl and 21 healthy controls working in the same factory (BMn concentrations: 0.7 to 1.7, mean 1.1 μg/dl). The workers engaged in welding for 6 to 36 (mean 17) yr. All the study subjects were divided into 3 equally sized groups (n=14 for each group) according to BMn concentrations. Numbers of CD8+ T, total T (CD3+), B (CD19+), and total lymphocytes were significantly lower in high-BMn group than those in low-BMn group; the numbers of CD8+ T lymphocytes were significantly lower in moderate-BMn group compared to low-BMn group. After adjusting for age and smoking, significant inverse correlations between BMn concentrations and CD4+CD45RA+ T, CD4+ T, CD8+ T, CD3+ T, and total lymphocytes were found. We conclude that T lymphocytes, especially CD8+ and CD4+CD45RA+ T lymphocytes, as well as CD19+ B lymphocytes are affected by exposure to Mn fume.
This study was to explore the relationship among mental ability, occupational stress, and psychological work performance in Chinese workers, and to identify relevant modifiers of mental ability and psychological work performance. Psychological Stress Intensity (PSI), psychological work performance, and mental ability (Mental Function Index, MFI) were determined among 485 Chinese workers (aged 33 to 62 yr, 65% of men) with varied work occupations. Occupational Stress Questionnaire (OSQ) and mental ability with 3 tests (including immediate memory, digit span, and cipher decoding) were used. The relationship between mental ability and psychological work performance was analyzed with multiple linear regression approach. PSI, MFI, or psychological work performance were significantly different among different work types and educational level groups (p<0.01). Multiple linear regression analysis showed that MFI was significantly related to gender, age, educational level, and work type. Higher MFI and lower PSI predicted a better psychological work performance, even after adjusted for gender, age, educational level, and work type. The study suggests that occupational stress and low mental ability are important predictors for poor psychological work performance, which is modified by both gender and educational level.
Work-related musculoskeletal injuries are often associated with overexertion of the body at work. The manual materials handling activity of lifting is a major source of work-related musculoskeletal disorders. Biomechanical evaluation offers useful information about the physical stress imposed on the worker's body joints; however, biomechanical analysis is usually tedious and complex. For evaluation purpose, the biomechanical method needs to be easy to apply in a field environment. Manual lifting occurs as one of the most common manual materials handling tasks in the workplace. A biomechanical evaluation method was developed based on the ratio of joint moment to joint capacity. The method was applied to evaluate the physical stress of manual lifting in truck loading jobs using a nine-link whole body joint model. Thirty eight industrial tasks were evaluated using the developed joint moment ratio. The moment ratio was compared with subjectively rated body discomfort, overall workload, and the NIOSH lifting index. The moment ratio was found to have a high correlation with the NIOSH lifting index. The biomechanical method can be used with relatively simple equipment and procedure which may be suitable for on-site ergonomic evaluation.
Recently in Japan dioxin problem of municipal solid waste incinerator (MSWI) became social issue. The news spread all around Japan and induced fear that workers at incinerators would suffer from cancer or other serious illness induced by the exposure to dioxins. Authors were interested in the effect of this stressful event occurred to the workers and intended to evaluate mental health status of MSWI workers compared with office workers. Subjects were male workers from two MSWI plants and a local government office; 20 government office workers who were engaging in health administration and 55 MSWI workers. Subjects were interviewed about their age, educational carrier, and working schedule. POMS and GHQ30 were used to evaluate mood status of subjects. There were differences in mood state between the two occupational groups. POMS showed that Tension-Anxiety, Depression-Dejection, and Fatigue levels were high in the health administration worker group. GHQ30 showed that General Illness, Social Dysfunction, and Anxiety and Dysphoria state were deviated to abnormal in the health administration worker group. General mental health status evaluated by GHQ30 score was also deviated to abnormal in the office worker group. Our results showed that mental health status of health administration workers was less healthy compared with MSWI workers. This meant that the stress of MSWI workers enhanced by the fear that they might have been exposed to dioxin did not exceed the stress the health administration workers usually had suffered from.
Over an 11-yr period (1990-2000), a questionnaire survey on work environmental management and environmental improvement was conducted on 259 lead-handling factories and 7,623 subjects. Labour Inspection Offices identified these factories as requiring environmental improvement, or possessing a desire to improve their working environment. We analyzed factors affecting blood lead levels (PbBs). These factors were gender, age, employment duration, factory size, work environment control (WEC) class, and job categories. The PbB of men was found to be higher than that of women, and may be due to the differences in job distribution. PbB increased along with increasing age and employment duration. PbB declined as the factory size increased. The odds ratio (OR) of PbB higher than 20 μg/dl according to factory size was significantly high even after adjusting for WEC class. This demonstrates that not only the working environment but also safety management was poorer among small-scale factories that large-scale factories. The rise of PbB along with the increase of WEC class confirmed that the results of work environment measurement are correlated with individual exposure levels. The risk of having a 20 μg/dl or higher PbB was different for various lead handling jobs. Smelting or refining lead had the highest risk for lead exposure while painting or baking had the lowest risk. As our study population was not a randomly selected sample, we are unable to generalize our results for workers across Japan. However, we were able to indicate which jobs pose a high-risk and the effectiveness of using the work environment control class as an index of worksite environment levels.
Occupational asthma is characterised by airway inflammation, variable airflow limitation and airway hyperresponsiveness related causally to work. The aim of the study was to ascertain whether in patients with occupational asthma findings persist after withdrawal from occupational allergen exposure. A group of 37 patients with occupational asthma and a control group of 19 persons were examined. Results in asthmatics obtained during the first visit when occupational asthma was acknowledged, were compared with recent results about 6.5 yr on average after elimination of occupational allergen exposure. Recent findings in occupational asthma patients were compared with the control group. In patients with occupational asthma, no significant differences were found between results obtained at the first and recent visit. Symptoms of asthma persisted in as much as 86.5% of patients. During recent examination there were more positive results in asthmatic patients comparing with the control group in histamine challenge (61.3 vs. 5.3%, p<0.01), eosinophile cationic protein (41.7 vs. 5.3%, p<0.05), prick tests (45.9 vs. 10.5%, p<0.05). Positive results of the present histamine challenge test and elevated eosinophils in sputum were more frequent (p<0.05) in patients with occupational asthma due to high molecular weight allergens than to low molecular weight allergens.
The dissolution rates of rare earth oxides and two types of rare earth containing functional materials into water, saline solution, and Gamble's fluid were measured in order to evaluate the biological effects of rare earth-containing functional materials. The tested materials were yttrium, lanthanum, cerium and neodymium oxides, and neodymium-boron-iron magnet alloy (NdBFe) and lanthanum-mish-metal-nickel-cobalt (LmNiCo) hydrogen-containing alloy. The dissolution rates of the rare earth oxides were very low, resulting in concentrations of rare earth elements in the test solutions of the order of ppb. In the most extreme case, Gamble's fluid dissolved 1,400 times more of the rare earth oxides than pure water. Fairly high concentration of neodymium were found in the dissolving fluids, which means that trace neodymium present as an impurity in each rare earth oxide dissolved preferentially. For yttrium oxide, the ratio of neodymium to yttrium that dissolved in the saline solution was greater than 78,000 to 1, taking into account the amount of each that was originally present in the yttrium oxide.
An analytical cross-sectional epidemiological study was carried out among 109 manganese plant workers to examine the prevalence and association between lower back problems (LBP) and family and workplace related psychosocial risk factors. Outcome (LBP) was defined using a guided questionnaire and a functional rating index. Exposure to family and workplace related psychosocial risk was determined using the Occupational Risk Factor (ORFQ) and APGAR questionnaires for work and family support. Using inclusive and stringent definitions for perceived LBP, point prevalence was 37.6% and 29.4%, respectively. Only 8 cases of LBP were, however recorded officially over a 7-yr period (1996-2003). Multivariate analyses indicated a high, but non-significant odds ratio (OR) for negative perceptions of workplace support OR 3.29 (CI 0.95-11.30). A positive, non-significant, association for negative perceptions of family support (2.56; CI 0.69-9.52) and a protective, but non-significant, association for control over the order and pace of working tasks (OR 0.40; CI 0.12-1.35) was found. These findings together with the under-reporting, leads one to conclude that work hardening and a cultural ethos of non-complaining among manual labourers, moderates the association between LBP and the aetiological factors studied.
Di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP) has been reported to act as an antiandrogen and to affect the reproductive organs and accessory genital glands. Thus, to assess the reproductive toxicity of DEHP it is important to examine both its adverse effects on the development of offspring following maternal exposure and its effects on sexual function and fertility. In the present study, we examined whether in utero and lactational exposure to DEHP affects postnatal somatic growth of offspring in the rat. Pregnant females were orally administered various doses of DEHP (0, 25, 100 or 400 mg/kg body weight/day) from gestational day (GD) 6 through postnatal day (PND) 20. There were no significant changes in body weight, body length, tail length, or the weight of individual organs between the control and DEHP-treated groups. Somatic hormonal parameters were the same for all DEHP doses. These findings suggest that in utero and lactational exposure to various concentrations of DEHP has very little effect on postnatal development or endocrine and physical status of male and female rat offspring under the experimental conditions of the present study.
Occupational diseases are a significant problem affecting public health. Safety training is an important method of preventing occupational illness. Training is increasingly being delivered by computer although theories of learning from computer-based multimedia have been tested almost entirely on college students. This study was designed to determine whether these theories might also be applied to safety training applications for working adults. Participants viewed either computer-based multimedia respirator use training with concurrent narration, narration prior to the animation, or unrelated safety training. Participants then took a five-item transfer test which measured their ability to use their knowledge in new and creative ways. Participants who viewed the computer-based multimedia trainings both did significantly better than the control group on the transfer test. The results of this pilot study suggest that design guidelines developed for younger learners may be effective for training workers in occupational safety and health although more investigation is needed.
Ethylene glycol monoethyl ether (EGEE) is known to have testicular toxicity. To elucidate whether EGEE has any effect on sperm motion, especially in the case of short time exposure, we conducted a series of in vivo experiments with rats, as well as an in vitro study with rat sperm. Sperm from cauda epididymides and spermaducts was analyzed for the change in motion with a Hamilton-Thorne Sperm analyzer. Administration of EGEE at 600 mg/kg/d for five weeks significantly decreased total and progressive motility of sperm to 15-30% of controls, in both the cauda epididymis and the spermaduct. The time-course experiment using a single dose of 1,000 mg/kg showed that damage to sperm motion was evident at 12-24 h after EGEE administration. Addition of EGEE to the medium of sperm had no effect on its motion, but the metabolite ethoxyacetic acid showed a significant inhibitory effect. These results suggest that besides its toxicity to spermatogenesis, the metabolite of EGEE may also directly affect the motion of mature sperm.
We investigated the relationship between musculoskeletal disorders and sleep problems among 98 employees (79 women) at three nursing homes. Self-reported data were collected regarding pain in the neck, shoulders, arms, legs, and low back, sleep disturbances, daytime sleepiness (Epworth Sleepiness Scale), and the level of workload on the hands, legs, and low back by type of care. Pain in the arms was significantly associated with less difficulty initiating sleep, fewer symptoms of insomnia, and a higher level of daytime sleepiness. After adjusting for age and gender, only the association between arm pain and daytime sleepiness remained significant (Odds Ratio 6.70, 95% Confidence Interval 1.40-31.97). Participants with both arm pain and daytime sleepiness showed significantly greater levels of workload in some kinds of care in a systemic manner than counterparts without either complaint. These findings suggest that arm pain is associated with elevated sleep propensity/fatigue in nursing home work.
To clarify the molecular basis of toxicities of industrial chemicals, it is demanded to develop appropriate methods whereby their cellular target molecules can be directly identified. In the present study, we focused on target proteins of heavy metals and established the method to detect them using a combination of metal-chelating column chromatography and a subsequent analysis by electrophoresis. Protein samples prepared from HeLa cells were applied to the Zn- or Cd-chelating column, and the bound proteins were analyzed by SDS-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis followed by either silver staining, or fluorography when using radiolabel protein samples. Among several protein species trapped in the columns, a 36-kDa protein apparently has an affinity to both Zn and Cd, indicating the possibility that Cd can exchange essential Zn on this protein. These results suggest that the established method is useful for the target protein screening and further analyses of separated proteins.