Many machine industry employers in the US (and beyond) utilize the “shift work” system to offer 24×7 services. They employ workers in shifts: a 24-hour day is divided into multiple shifts so that each shift can be assigned to a different worker. According to the National Library of Medicine, 15% of the American workers are employed as shift workers.
Shift Work is Common
Shift workers make up for a major part of the industrial workforce, be it manufacturing, oil drilling, mining, and truck driving. But contrary to popular belief, shift work doesn’t just mean “staying up late for work.”
The manufacturing industry, where workers have to operate heavy and powerful machinery in unsafe conditions, shift work may add to the risk of injuries and accidents.
Health Hazards Associated With Shift Work
Various studies conducted over the years show that industrial workers are exposed to additional risk due to shift work. As workers try to maintain their performance levels, the monotony of work adds up and increases their stress levels.
Many workers believe that fatigue and exhaustion are a part of their life as a shift worker. They have no idea that this exhaustion could also increase their chances of getting injured in a major machine-related accident.
But that is exactly what happens.
Over 50% of the shift workers are prone to committing multiple miscalculations while operating the heavy machinery. This explains the $37 billion spent on the healthcare and compensation of shift workers every year.
Studies show that a poor sleep schedule and higher stress levels are directly related to the higher rate of obesity, diabetes, and heart diseases – thus indicating that the healthcare expenses for shift workers will continue to grow.
Some employers try to ease the poor sleeping patterns of their shift workers by assigning them fixed schedules. But night shift workers even on fixed schedules can experience a great deal of exhaustion when they return to work from their breaks. Since workers reclaim their normal sleeping schedule on their days off, their sleep patterns continue to get disrupted over time.
How Can Employers Help?
One of the key reasons behind the injury risks and health issues faced by shift workers (like fatigue, lethargy, overwork, overtime) is insufficient staff size.
Employers often do not employ enough workers to operate the machinery which causes the shift workers to work overtime. This, in turn, creates inconsistent sleep patterns and adds to the risk of industrial accidents.
To address this situation, employers should make sure that enough workers are employed to cover all the shifts so that all the machine operators can get adequate rest and vacation time. This will help ensure a fair distribution of overtime shifts.
Enough Breaks Must Be Allowed
Employers must also ensure that sufficient breaks are provided between work weeks. Consecutive working periods should be no longer than 5-7 days. If the shift duration is longer, then the consecutive working period should be shorter.
Experts recommend that machine operators must have at least two days off between 7-day shifts. A single day off is not sufficient for machine workers. A single day off can actually worsen their fatigue.
Correlating with Fatigue and Exhaustion
Unfortunately, shift work is linked to worker fatigue and exhaustion, even if it increases employee productivity. Employers should take steps to ensure that the lives of machine workers are not placed at risk because of an unreasonable amount of shift work or shift work altogether.
Watch YouTube Video: Shift Work and Your Health. This video explains the effects of shift working on your health.
Sacramento Machine Accident Lawyers
I’m Ed Smith, a machine accident lawyer in Sacramento. Shift work could cause harm to machine workers due to fatigue and lack of sleep. If you or a loved one has been injured in the workplace, call me for a free consultation at 916-584-9355.
I have had the honor of helping many Sacramento residents and all over Northern California by obtaining full compensation for their wrongful death and personal injury cases since 1982.
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