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The terrible toll of relentless pressure to keep going

Delving into the stark reality of individuals risking their health for career success, this article paints a poignant picture of the sacrifices made in the pursuit of professional goals.

A young man is woken by his alarm. Slowly and painfully he slides out of bed and whilst siting on the edge of the bed sleepily opens several small bottles siting on his bedside table. He empties tablets from each bottle into his open palm and then throws a hand full into his mouth followed by a large gulp of water from the glass sitting on the bed side cabinet. He rises slowly and limps to the shower. He is tall, slim and muscular.

Next time we see him is in the treatment  room already changed into his uniform. He is an American pro footballer waiting for the team doctor to give him a painkiller injection in order to play. His own doctor has told him if he carries on playing he will end up crippled and in a wheelchair but he recons just one more season playing at the top and he will have enough money to retire and build that house in the mountains on the land he bought with his  his first signing on fee.

This is a clear example of someone knowingly risking permanently damaging his health through his job. His employer would claim it is in both their interests to “look after one of his star players” . But whilst the manager would never force him to play whilst injured he turns a blind eye to the use of strong pain killers  and the consequences of repeatedly subjecting damaged knees to the physical punishment involved in playing.

Of course the manager is only concerned with the short term, the next important game,  the need for some confidence building quick wins and performances that will reassure the board,  not whether his one time star player will he still be able to walk in a few years. After all it’s the players choice.

This is an extreme example but cases of people suffering long term physical and mental health damage due to work are all to common. I am not referring to industrial accidents or occupational disease like miners lung I am talking about strokes, heart attacks , depression and disabling anxiety brought on by stress. Stress the individual was probably unaware of until the damage was done.

But even if they had realised the long term damage the excessive hours culture,  the conflicting priorities, the unrelenting pressure , the unrealistic targets and ever present possibility of redundancy were having could they,  would they do anything about it. Probably not. Which is why an employers duty of care should extend to protecting people from themselves.

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