It was recently reported that a British coroner determined that the death of a young Bank of America Merrill Lynch intern was caused by fatigue from extreme working conditions.

21-year-old Moritz Erhardt was found in the shower of his London flat in August. He died of an epileptic seizure that may have been triggered by fatigue. According to Coroner Mary Hassell, Erhardt was regularly taking his medication for epilepsy, and suffered a massive seizure despite of that. She told an inquest his death was possibly attributable to his work, saying “because Moritz had been working so hard his fatigue was a trigger for the seizure that killed him.”

This has apparently fueled debate over the long working hours and competitive environment at top investment banks.

Normally those guys have to jump out of windows, and then just during the down times.

The bank has indicated it is reviewing its working conditions, especially for its junior staff.

So is a death at home in the shower actually work related? What are the ramifications of such a determination?

Employers have long owned employees personal health issues in the form of contributory or aggravating conditions, but to now link a death, fully attributable to a previously known condition, to the workplace could have dramatic impact on employers and employees. Investment banks are not the only industry known for providing a long and demanding workday. Doctors in residency work legendary schedules. Even within our own little corner of the world in workers’ comp, people are known for working extremely long schedules.

I know this because I get emails from people that appear to be sent in the middle of the night, or in the wee hours of the morning. A firm believer in “work/life” balance, I have occasionally mentioned during conference presentations that my employees generally work a Monday thru Friday 9 – 5 schedule (support issues require different scheduling for some, but still are 40 hour weeks). That statement is always greeted by a stunned murmur in the audience, as that type of schedule has long since departed for many in the industry.

Of course, the advent of mobile computing and communication continues to blur the lines between private and workplace life.

So employers, you have yet another warning to heed. You might be killing your employees. When Edna in accounting topples over dead in her herb garden, you might be on the hook. When Joe from the loading dock runs over himself with his own ATV, you’d better hope it was not from sleep deprivation. Better cut back on those workplace demands.

It might also help to swing by every night and tuck them into bed, just to make sure they are safe.

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