Journal Staff

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By Journal Staff

Study results released several years ago by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) might be outdone by the results from a similar study conducted eight years later.

But the statistics don’t point to glad tidings.

American workers are spending more and more time on the job, with prime-age working couples (two people) contributing nearly four additional months of annual work time since the 1970s.

That’s months, not hours or days.

These average annual working hours in the United States exceed the average for Japan and all of Western Europe, except for the Czech Republic and Hungary.

While research into the factors contributing to long hours is limited, the study suggests several possibilities: substituting overtime for new employment and adding technologies that make work impervious to time and geographical boundaries—think laptop computers and cell phones. Employees picked up on a temporary basis to fill in the gaps may work fewer hours but without access to company-provided benefits enjoyed by the overworking full-time staff.

In another light, the possibilities suggest organizational changes companies take to save money and to more successfully compete in the market. The trend is creating a variety of potentially stressful and hazardous situations. Future NIOSH studies will target data collection comparing demands among specific industries and what can be done to protect worker safety and health.

Not surprisingly, shift work and long work hours are among the leading causes of typical job stress cited by emergency services workers.