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Accumulated Fatigue May be Considered in the Standards for Recognizing "Karoshi"

In determining whether a worker who died of so-called "Karoshi" (death due to overwork) caused by cerebro-vascular diseases and/or ischemic heart diseases (excluding those attributable to injuries) is qualified for workmen's accident compensation insurance as an occupational disease, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) has hitherto applied "the Standards for Recognizing Brain and Heart Diseases," as amended in February 1995. In February 2000, however, the Supreme Court has ruled against the government in the cases of two vehicle drivers, in which the chiefs of the relevant labor standards inspection offices determined that the deaths were not caused by occupation-related diseases. In determining whether these workers had been exposed to heavy job-related burdens, the Supreme Court ruled that although specific standards were not shown for chronic fatigue and other factors arising from working conditions, such factors must be included in the examination process.

In response to this ruling, the MHLW's Expert Examination Meeting on the Standards for Recognizing Brain/Heart Diseases (chairman: Isao Wada, professor of Saitama Medical School) announced the result of its examination in which new standards are suggested to extend the period during which a worker's working conditions must be examined from the current "one week before the appearance of symptoms" to "six months before the appearance of symptoms."

The Ministry intends to immediately amend the standards for recognizing brain/heart diseases on the basis of the examination result.