Night shift workers are about 25-30% more at risk of injury than those working day shifts, new research has revealed.
The study, funded by IOSH, examined five aspects of wellbeing: chronic fatigue, emotional reactivity, social isolation, stress and overall health.
Researchers found that working a 12-hour rather than an eight-hour shift increases the risk of injury, again by about a third, with risk increasing evenly over four consecutive shifts.
The study found that shift workers reported higher levels of chronic fatigue, as a result of the disturbance of biological rhythms that occur as a result of shift work. Over many years the disruption of these biological and social factors may have negative long-term effects. By disrupting the body clock, sleep, alongside family and social time, can result in acute effects on mood and performance. This may lead to long-term effects on mental health, impacting both workers' physical, psychological and psychosocial health, as well as safety.
While the research found that shift work was associated with impaired cognitive abilities, especially after a ten-year exposure – it also seems that these effects can be temporary and reversible.
Based on this study, and on existing best practice, IOSH researchers’ recommendations include include evaluating shift schedule design such as length of breaks and start and finish times - allow adequate time between shifts for sleep and meal preparation, providing at least 48 hours between shift changes and to provide regular (annual) health checks for shift workers and transfer them to day work if required.
IOSH has produced a free combined resource – a summary of research into The effects of shift work on health, and a practical guide (from page 08), Good practice in action: managing the effects of shift work on health. These give more information and guidance for employees and employers about how to mitigate the risk of shift work. You can download it here.