Safety and OSHA News

Identifying employees most affected by shift work

Some employees adapt well to shift work. For others, it can create serious health and safety problems. How can you find those who will adapt better?

An international team of sleep researchers has developed the first screening tool to help.

Published in the journal Sleep, the screening questionnaire is for a condition known as shift work disorder (SWD).

SWD affects about 10% of shift workers. It’s characterized by extreme sleepiness and/or insomnia. However, it’s under-recognized by doctors. The questionnaire would help doctors diagnose the condition.

Shift work is associated with a higher rate of car crashes, workplace incidents that cause injuries/fatalities and quality-control errors.

Secondary health problems linked with shift work include cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal diseases and mood disorders, including depression.

The developers of the screening tool say it’s an important first step in better understanding vulnerability to shift work. They encourage additional research to develop further tests of actual impairment from lack of sleep.

Types of shift work are most associated with adverse health and safety include:

  • schedules that include hours between midnight and 6 a.m.
  • shifts that start before 7 am., and
  • rotating shifts.

One in three U.S. workers don’t get enough sleep.

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