Overwork-related disorders, such as cerebrovascular/cardiovascular diseases (CCVD) and mental disorders due to overwork known as ‘Karoshi’, are a major occupational and public health issue in East Asian countries. The Japanese Government passed the ‘Act on Promotion of Preventive Measures against Karoshi and Other Overwork-Related Health Disorders’ in June 2014 to develop a national initiative towards the prevention of overwork-related disorders. A part of the frame of the Law, National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, Japan (JNIOSH) has been started researches for compensation claims related to overwork-related disorders. A picture of victims of Karoshi revealed the need for workstyle reform and promoting comprehensive occupational health services in Japan.
Participatory workplace improvement programs spreading to various sectors should be a key solution against overwork-related disorders. A recent trend is to apply participatory programs for preventing work stress. Emphasis is usually placed on conducting multifaceted workplace improvements that have real impact on avoiding overstrained work. The reviewed programs for healthcare workers, local government employees and small and medium sized enterprises followed the guidelines for stress prevention programs concerning learning local good practices, addressing multifaceted stress-related risks and taking workplace-level group-work steps. A clear focus of these programs is placed on low-cost actions for improving internal communication, working schedules and teamwork methods. Improvement in these aspects accounted for the majority of improvements. Participatory steps focusing on feasible actions reflecting local good practices are effective for achieving these multifaceted improvements.
For preventing work stress by avoiding overstrained work, it is suggested to organise participatory group-work steps in each workplace by using locally adapted action checklists reflecting these multifaceted actions. Collecting good examples in comprehensive occupational health programs focusing on overwork-related disorders and exchanging these experiences contribute to workers’ safety and health in Asia.