Long work hours and irregular working schedules have long been a commonplace in the society. Some organizations are incorporating 10-, 12-, or 16-hour schedules to address staff shortages, while others are asking their personnel to work on extended shifts.
While some industries and countries do allow some of these extended working schedules, it can’t be denied that shifts beyond the traditional 8-hour schedule increase fatigue, errors, and adverse events and outcomes in the workplace, as well as negatively affect the staff’s productivity. Unfortunately, despite the growing concern, there is not a specific OSHA Standard for extended or unusual work shifts. However, the agency does have guidelines which are intended solely to provide inform employers and workers of the danger of extended shifts.
What are the effects of extended shifts to workers?
Extended and irregular work shifts are often more stressful physically, mentally, and emotionally to employees. Non-traditional shifts are known to disrupt the body’s regular schedule, leading to increased fatigue, stress, and lack of concentration. These effects lead to an increased risk of operator error, injuries and/or accidents in the workplace.
The signs of fatigue, both mental and physical, vary and depend on the person and his or her degree of overexertion. Examples are:
- loss of appetite and digestive problems
- reduced alertness, lack of concentration and memory
- lack of motivation
- recurring headache
- increased vulnerability to illness
How can extended shifts be addressed at work?
With today’s current setup, it’s important for both employers and employees to know how extended shifts can affect the production and absenteeism within the organization. Being familiar with OSHA’s set of guidelines should help set companies set a standard and find an agreeable solution to staffing problems that will benefit both sides in the long run. When given a choice, managers should limit the use of extended shifts and increase the number of days employees work instead. If it cannot be helped, additional breaks should be given to the staff so that they can get past long and irregular shifts.
Managers and supervisors should also learn to recognize signs and symptoms of the potential health effects associated with extended and unusual work shifts. Workers who are being asked to work extended or irregular shifts should be diligently monitored for the signs and symptoms of fatigue. To set a precedent, managers should receive sufficient Safety and Compliance Training in order to better address workforce-related issues that can lead to harmful and detrimental effects to the wellness of employees. Such program is available at 360training.com, the leading online workforce training provider in its class for more than a decade now.
There is no shortage of evidence suggesting that extended hours at work can cause stress and reduce productivity. However, data has also been consistent that extended shifts are here to stay, one way or the other. To find a common ground, it’s important for both companies and its employees to take a look at this subject with an open mind and with the guidance of OSHA and other labor agencies.