Recent reports show the number of people working part-time jobs is at an all-time high. And many of those people are working more than one job. What are the implications for workplace safety because of the number of people working multiple jobs?
You’d expect this might cause greater fatigue among these workers. Now a new study confirms it.
The study by the Center for Injury Epidemiology at the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety shows large differences in time use patterns for multiple-job-holders (MJHs) compared with single-job-holders (SJHs).
The authors conclude MJHs may be at greater risk for fatigue compared with SJHs because MJHs:
- work more work hours per week
- have longer daily commute times, and
- have less sleep and leisure time left in the week to recover.
In a previous study, Liberty Mutual found MJHs had a higher risk of injury than SJHs. Two other studies have confirmed this higher risk.
Lack of scheduling guidelines
The science of human Circadian Rhythms and fatigue has helped businesses that operate on more than one daytime shift effectively schedule workers so they experience the least amount of sleep disruption.
But this new study notes that most of these scheduling guidelines operate under the assumption that workers have only one job.
The current research also shows the most likely age group to work more than one job is 18-24.
More than 25 years ago, I was at the upper end of that age group. I decided one year to attempt to supplement my meager journalistic earnings with a holiday-season retail job. I worked 42 hours a week at my news job, six days a week, and about 25 hours a week spread over five days at the retail job. For a three-month period, I worked seven days a week with only Thanksgiving and Christmas off.
What I remember most about that period was not having enough time to spend with family and friends, or to thoroughly clean my apartment.
What I don’t remember is feeling particularly fatigued. It’s a wonderful thing about youth: You bounce back more easily. That and the nature of the two jobs helped: sedentary editor work, and retail duties kept me on my feet, but never got more strenuous than stocking shelves with clothing items.
I also didn’t have a lot of responsibilities outside of my jobs (single, no kids).
I can’t imagine doing that and trying to raise kids.
But having two jobs and other life responsibilities has become much more common today than it was 25 years ago.
So this Liberty Mutual study is a wake-up call to safety pros: Your employees may be more fatigued today because of factors outside of your workplace.
Unfortunately, as noted above, there’s little or no advice regarding what to do, except this old proverb: Forewarned is forearmed.
That goes both for safety pros and workers. You can’t stop employees from having second jobs. But you can educate them about the dangers of fatigue, particularly in safety-sensitive jobs. If they’re so worn out that they fear falling asleep on the job, they have to feel able to let you know about it without fear of repercussions.