|Measures to be Taken by Employers to Prevent Health Impairment Due to Overwork
On the basis of medical research, etc., over recent years, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) has amended the standards for recognizing brain and heart diseases as occupational diseases through Notice No. 1063 of the Labor Standards Bureau dated December 12, 2001 and entitled "Recognition Standards for Cerebro-Vascular Diseases, Ischemic Heart Diseases, Etc. (Excluding Those Attributable to Injuries)" (hereinafter referred to as "new recognition standards"). While a focus has been placed on burdens in the period close to the appearance of symptoms (mainly within one week prior to the appearance of symptoms) as clearly excessive burdens due to work that have an impact on the appearance of symptoms of brain and heart diseases, it was determined to also consider long-term accumulated fatigue as clearly excessive burdens due to work. According to the results of medical studies underlying the concept of these new recognition standards, the accumulation of fatigue that stems from long hours of work over a long period of time and associated lack of sleep causes an increase in blood pressure, as a result of which vascular and other conditions are significantly aggravated beyond the scope of natural aging. From this standpoint, the standards in evaluating working hours that are considered the most important factor in bringing about accumulated fatigue are established as follows.
(1) When surveys reveal no overtime work exceeding approximately 45 hours per month for a period of one month to six months before the appearance of the disease symptoms, it is considered that the relationship between the work and the appearance of the disease symptoms is weak. The longer the overtime work beyond approximately 45 hours, the stronger the relationship between the work and the appearance of the disease symptoms.
(2) When surveys reveal overtime work exceeding approximately 100 hours for a period of one month before the appearance of the disease symptoms or overtime work exceeding approximately 80 hours per month over a period of two months to six months prior to the appearance of the disease symptoms, it is considered that the relationship between work and the appearance of the disease symptoms is strong.
On the basis of this concept, the measures that should be taken by employers have been determined as follows for the purpose of preventing worker health impairment due to overwork.
- Reducing overtime work
(1) In consideration of the fact that overtime work is permitted essentially on a temporary basis and that the longer the hours of overtime work (meaning work exceeding 40 hours a week; hereinafter the same) beyond 45 hours per month, the stronger the relationship between work and brain and heart diseases, employers shall establish an agreement specified in Article 36 of the Labor Standards Law (hereinafter referred to as "Article 36 agreements") together with a trade union organized by a majority of the workers or with a person representing a majority of the workers whereby the contents of such agreement conform to the "Standards Concerning the Limitation of the Extension of Working Hours as Determined in the Agreement Specified in Paragraph 1, Article 36 of the Labor Standards Law" (Notification No. 154 of the Ministry of Labor; 1998) (hereinafter referred to as the "Limitation Standards").
Even if the Article 36 agreement permits overtime work beyond 45 hours per month such as when the agreement provides that it is possible to extend working hours to a certain time beyond the time limitations in case of a "special situation" as specified in the proviso of Article 3 of the Limitation Standards, employers shall make efforts to reduce actual overtime work to 45 hours per month or less.
(2) In consideration of (1), 1 above, employers shall make efforts to properly manage working hours so that overtime work is 45 hours or less per month.
In this case, even if the overtime work is 45 hours or less per month, consideration shall be given to further reducing overtime work to avoid any negative impact on worker health.
Moreover, employers shall also pay full attention to their responsibilities to maintain the health of workers subject to a discretionary work system and managers and supervisors to prevent overwork.
(3) Employers shall be fully cognizant of working hours based on Notice No. 339 of the Labor Standards Bureau dated April 6, 2001, "Standards Concerning the Measures to be Taken by Employers to Fully Understand Working Hours."
- Promoting the utilization of annual paid holidays
Employers shall promote the creation of working environments in which it is easy to take annual paid holidays through the utilization of various subsidy systems and encourage workers to take annual paid holidays in a specific manner.
- Fully implementing measures relating to worker health management
(1) Fully implementing medical examinations
Employers shall make sure to implement the medical examinations specified in Paragraph 1, Article 66 of the Industrial Safety and Health Law, listening the views of physicians concerning the results of the medical examinations as specified in Article 66-4 of the same law, measures after executing medical examination as specified in Article 66-5 of the same law, and provide health guidance, etc., as specified in Article 66-7 of the same law.
In particular, employers shall keep in mind that health examinations for workers engaging in designates work must be implemented regularly once every six months for workers constantly engaged in work that includes late night work in accordance with Article 45 of the Ordinance on Industrial Safety and Health.
Moreover, employers shall notify workers of the voluntary medical examination reception support subsidy system to contribute to the health management of workers engaging in late night work and the secondary medical examination benefit system for workers with abnormal findings on certain medical examination items to encourage the utilization of such systems. At the same time, employers shall keep in mind that when workers submit the results of these examinations, employers must take follow-up measures based on the results of these medical examinations as well.
Furthermore, employers shall make efforts to continuously and systematically implement measures to aim health promotion of workers as specified in Article 69 of the Industrial Safety and Health Law.
(2) Advice and guidance provided by industrial physicians
- In the event any employer has workers engage in overtime work exceeding
45 hours a month, such employer shall submit information on the working
environment, working hours, the number of late night work assignments and
the number of late night work hours, the results of past medical examinations,
etc., with respect to workers engaged in the relevant overtime work to
the industrial physician (a qualified physician eligible for appointment
as an industrial physician such as those physicians registered under the
regional industrial health center operations for workplaces that are not
required to assign industrial physicians) (hereinafter referred to as the
"industrial physician, etc.), and shall receive advice and guidance
from the industrial physician, etc., on health management at the workplace.
- In the event any employer has workers engage in overtime work exceeding
100 hours a month or a monthly average of overtime work beyond 80 hours
for a period of two to six months, such employer shall take the following
measures in addition to "a," as the relationship between the
work and brain and heart diseases is considered strong. Specifically, the
employer shall submit information on the working environment, working hours,
the number of late night work assignments and the number of late night
work hours, the results of past medical examinations, etc., with respect
to workers engaged in the relevant overtime work to the industrial physician,
etc., and shall have the worker engaged in the relevant work receive health
guidance through an interview with the industrial physician, etc. If deemed
necessary by the industrial physician, etc., , the employer shall have
the worker undergo medical examinations for matters that the industrial
physician, etc., considers necessary, shall heed the opinions of the relevant
industrial physician, etc., based on the results, and shall take necessary
- In the event of occupational diseases due to overwork, the employer shall
receive advice from the industrial physician, etc., or utilize the industrial
health consultant as required in investigating the causes and in fully
preventing recurrences as follows.
(a) Investigating causes
Causes shall be investigated from various standpoints such as with respect to irregular working hours and duties, portal-to-portal hours, business trips, shift work, late night work, working environment conditions, working situation accompanying mental stress, etc.
(b) Preventing recurrences
Employers shall establish measures to prevent any recurrences based on the results of (a) above.