How to Reduce Risk in Shift Work - Worksite Medical
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Rotating Schedules and Shifts


Nowadays, many businesses and industries are expected to function around the clock.

This calls for a rotating work schedule, known as shift work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, shift work is a way of life for nearly 15 million Americans.

But, is it healthy to work these off-hour shifts? 

Shift workers are more likely to suffer from fatigue. Disrupted sleep patterns and circadian rhythms make it difficult to stay awake.

A recent study from the National Safety Council found that 13 percent of workplace injuries could be attributed to fatigue. Lack of sleep also impacts mood, cardiovascular health, and metabolism. 


Related Article: Don’t Sleep on Workplace Fatigue


But, healthy shift work isn’t impossible.

Guidelines from NIOSH and The National Sleep Foundation provide employers with ways to keep workers healthy, both mentally and physically, during shift work. 

Here’s a breakdown:


Schedule Shifts Thoughtfully 


  • Five (5) eight-hour shifts or four (4) 10-hour shifts are best for keeping workers healthy
  • If working longer than 10-hour shifts, workers should be provided with more frequent breaks or given “lighter work,” such as desk work 
  • Give employees a least 10 consecutive hours of off-duty time in a day to help workers get seven to eight hours of sleep


Focus on Alertness 


  • Give employees more short breaks to move around when possible 
  • Provide caffeinated drinks such as coffee for employees – it’s best to drink these in the first half of the shift and avoid them for the hours before sleeping 


Encourage a Healthy Lifestyle 


Educate your employees on the nature of shift-work, and provide tips for staying healthy outside of work as well as on-the-job. Encourage shift workers to do the following: 

  • Get plenty of exercise, especially during daylight hours if possible 
  • Eat a balanced diet, and supplement with daily vitamins 
  • Keep daylight sunlight out of the bedroom during sleeping hours with light-blocking window treatments


Focusing on the wellness of your shift-workers can reduce health care costs and generally improve productivity and limit the risk of accidents.

Maintaining a healthy workforce is easier with regular on-site medical testing. Here at Worksite Medical, we bring all the resources of a medical lab directly to you. 

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