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The impact of overtime and long work hours on occupational injuries and illnesses: new evidence from the United States.

Dembe AE; Erickson JB; Delbos RG; Banks SM
Occup Environ Med 2005 Sep; 62(9):588-597
To analyse the impact of overtime and extended working hours on the risk of occupational injuries and illnesses among a nationally representative sample of working adults from the United States. Responses from 10,793 Americans participating in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) were used to evaluate workers' job histories, work schedules, and occurrence of occupational injury and illness between 1987 and 2000. A total of 110,236 job records were analysed, encompassing 89,729 person-years of accumulated working time. Aggregated incidence rates in each of five exposure categories were calculated for each NLSY survey period. Multivariate analytical techniques were used to estimate the relative risk of long working hours per day, extended hours per week, long commute times, and overtime schedules on reporting a work related injury or illness, after adjusting for age, gender, occupation, industry, and region. After adjusting for those factors, working in jobs with overtime schedules was associated with a 61% higher injury hazard rate compared to jobs without overtime. Working at least 12 hours per day was associated with a 37% increased hazard rate and working at least 60 hours per week was associated with a 23% increased hazard rate. A strong dose-response effect was observed, with the injury rate (per 100 accumulated worker-years in a particular schedule) increasing in correspondence to the number of hours per day (or per week) in the workers' customary schedule. Results suggest that job schedules with long working hours are not more risky merely because they are concentrated in inherently hazardous industries or occupations, or because people working long hours spend more total time "at risk" for a work injury. Strategies to prevent work injuries should consider changes in scheduling practices, job redesign, and health protection programmes for people working in jobs involving overtime and extended hours.
Workers; Work-environment; Injuries; Occupational-health; Risk-factors; Risk-analysis; Sampling; Job-analysis; Employees; Employee-health; Employee-exposure; Demographic-characteristics; Age-groups; Age-factors; Racial-factors; Sex-factors; Occupational-hazards; Job-stress; Fatigue; Worker-health; Work-practices; Workplace-studies; Epidemiology; Statistical-analysis
Associate Professor A Dembe, Center for Health Policy & Research, University of Massachusetts Medical School, 222 Maple Avenue, Higgins Building, Shrewsbury, MA 01545, USA
Publication Date
Document Type
Journal Article
Email Address
Funding Type
Fiscal Year
Identifying No.
Grant-Number-R01-OH-007576; Grant-Number-T42-CCT-122961
Issue of Publication
Source Name
Occupational and Environmental Medicine
Performing Organization
University of Massachusetts Medical School
Page last reviewed: May 11, 2023
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division