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.