Shift Work Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

With shift work on the rise, so too may be the risk of workplace injury. A
recent study by researchers from the Canadian University of British Columbia
(UBC) concluded that Canadians who work night and rotating shifts are almost
twice as likely to be injured on the job as those working regular day shifts.

The study examined data on 30,000 Canadians collected as part of Statistics
Canada's Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics. Trends in work injury were
compared among workers involved in different types of shift work from
1996-2006. The findings showed that even though the overall rate of work
injuries in Canada decreased during this time, the rate of injuries for night
shift workers remained stable.

The study found that night shift work was associated with a higher incidence of
work injury for both women and men. However, only women had a higher risk of
work injury related to rotating shifts, increasing their risk overall compared
to men. The researchers suggest that because women are more likely to have
childcare and household responsibilities, they may have more difficulties
adjusting to shift work and getting enough good quality sleep. Shift work can
disrupt normal sleep patterns and cause drowsiness or fatigue, which can lead
to workplace injuries.

In the past few decades, the number of Canadians working shift work has risen
substantially. The number of women working shifts increased by 95% during the
study period, mainly in the health care sector - almost double the 50% increase
of men, occurring mostly in manufacturing and trades.

Injuries related to shift work come with a hefty price tag. In 2006, 307,000
work-related injury claims associated with shift work represented more than
$50.5 million in costs to Canada's workers' compensation system. The study
authors recommended that governments and employers consider policies and
programs to help reduce the risk of injuries among shift workers.

Although an obvious solution to the risks of shift work would be to eliminate
it altogether, this may not be a practical option for many workplaces.
According to CCOHS, there are two basic levels where improvements can be made
to help reduce the effects of shift work:

  • the organizational level - primarily through the design of shift schedules, education and better facilities, including conducting a risk assessment for every task to be performed during a specific shift

  • the individual level - helping workers to get better sleep, eat a healthier diet, and reduce stress.

Further Information - Source: Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety