Death By Working
Last week, a piece of news really caught my ears. Seeing something that had been floating around in the workplace in the form of workplace urban legends published bold and loud courtesy of Associated Press made it home in my mind. The story concerns the death of a man at work, by working. Apparently, this phenomenon of death by working is quite common in Japan, that the phenomenon actually have its own pop culture terminology. This is a piece of bizarro news that I hope everyone takes to heart, literally.
TOKYO (AP) — A Japanese labor bureau has ruled that one of Toyota’s top car engineers died from working too many hours, the latest in a string of such findings in a nation where extraordinarily long hours for some employees has long been the norm.
The man who died was age 45 and had been under severe pressure as the lead engineer in developing a hybrid version of Toyota’s blockbuster Camry line, said Mikio Mizuno, the lawyer representing his wife. The man’s identity is being withheld at the request of his family, who continue to live in Toyota City where the company is based.
In the two months up to his death, the man averaged more than 80 hours of overtime per month, according to Mizuno.
He regularly worked nights and weekends, was frequently sent abroad and was grappling with shipping a model for the pivotal North American International Auto Show in Detroit when he died of ischemic heart disease in January 2006. The man’s daughter found his body at their home the day before he was to leave for the United States.
There is an effort in Japan to cut down on deaths from overwork, known as “karoshi.” Such deaths have steadily increased since the Health Ministry first recognized the phenomenon in 1987.