Many jobs in this nation fall under the category of “shift work,”
a scheduling practice employers use to offer 24/7 services. The 24-hour
day is divided into shifts, and different workers are assigned to each
shift. According to a recent study, 15% of the American workforce is made
of shift workers.
Shift work provides a crucial service to a lot of American industries,
including mining, oil drilling, and truck driving. Even healthcare employs
shift workers—nursing is one of the most popular careers that involves
non-traditional hours. However, shift work is simply not a matter of staying up later.
The Health Risks of Shift Work
Studies show that shift work comes with risks to industrial workers. Consecutive
days of work compounds the level of stress as workers attempt to maintain
performance. In fact, though workers expect to face fatigue, they do not
expect their exhaustion to cause major accidents.
However, that is exactly what happens. Over half of workers commit several
errors while battling fatigue over a 1 year period. The workers’
compensation and healthcare expenses for shift workers costs $36.6 billion
annually—almost 20% of all excess costs of shift work.
Health costs will continue to soar for shift workers—studies show that
obesity, heart disease, and diabetes is linked to a poor sleep schedule, especially when it is due to long work hours. Employers try to mitigate
poor sleep scheduling with fixed schedules, but night shift workers on
fixed schedules still experience a great deal of fatigue when they return
from breaks. This is likely due to workers reclaiming a normal sleep schedule
on days off, undoing their greatest asset during night shifts.
What Employers Can Do to Help
Much of the issues associated with shift work (overtime, fatigue, overwork)
is not due to scheduling so much as staff size. When employers do not
employ enough staff, workers take on more overtime, creating inconsistent
work schedules that increase the likelihood of industrial accidents. Employers
should employ enough workers to cover all shifts, in addition to relief
workers so that employees can enjoy their contractual vacation days. This
also allows employers to evenly distribute overtime.
Employers must also provide effective breaks between work weeks. Experts
suggest that consecutive working days need to be limited between five
to seven days. The longer the shift, the shorter the consecutive working
period must be. In addition,
experts agree that a single day off between work periods is not sufficient—most workers report a worse sense of well-being on the first day
off than any other day. Workers must have two days off minimum, with periodic
three day breaks between seven-day shifts. Otherwise, fatigue will worsen
throughout working weeks.
When Accidents Happen, Let Us Be There for You
Unfortunately, the nature of shift work means fatigue and human error will
eventually cause accidents. If you are hurt in a workplace accident, contact
the industrial injury lawyers at Arnold & Itkin. Our attorneys are
passionate about protecting the rights of industrial workers because they
provide an important service to our country, and they deserve compensation
when they are injured.
Our firm has secured over $1 billion in verdicts and settlements for our
clients in the last 5 years alone. We have developed powerful courtroom
strategies based on a lifetime’s worth of trial experience. Fatigue
is a direct result of managerial planning. If your employer’s negligent
scheduling has caused an accident, we have the ability to secure the resources
you need to recover.
You do not have to recover alone—contact Arnold & Itkin for a free case consultation.