Shift Work Puts Workers at Risk

a man working at night, workers comp lawyer

Shift work and long work hours are associated with an increased risk of a variety of health problems and work-related accidents and injuries.

Health and Safety Concerns of Shift Work

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 15 million Americans work full time on a night shift or rotating shift that involves long and/or irregular hours. Studies show that both shift work and long work hours contribute to increased health and safety problems for workers who participate in these work patterns. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), shift workers who work night shifts for prolonged periods are at greater risk for obesity, cancer, mental health problems, and work-related accidents.

Health studies show that shift workers who work night shifts suffer from sleep deprivation due to a disruption in circadian rhythms, the body’s internal clock that is sensitive to temperature and light changes. Circadian rhythms have a major impact on cognitive, mental, and physical functions that are naturally synchronized by a 24-hour internal clock. When these natural rhythms are interrupted, body functions are impaired, leading to chronic fatigue, insomnia, depression and anxiety, memory loss, poor judgment, lack of critical thinking skills, and slower reactions. In certain jobs, such impairments can put workers at high risk of on-the-job accidents and injuries.

Disruption of circadian rhythms is especially dangerous to mental health. Research shows that 70 percent of people with insomnia or sleep problems develop problems with anxiety and severe depression, and almost two-thirds of patients with bipolar disorder suffer from abnormal sleep cycles. Physicians, nurses, emergency responders, and medical residents have increased risks for mental problems, medical errors, and injuries due to sleep deprivation caused by shift work and long, irregular work schedules. Work injury claims filed with a workers comp lawyer are common among hospital workers.

The majority of people who work the night shift are blue collar workers. They are mainly involved in plant operations, industrial fabrication, food services, and labor positions. Within the service industry, including protective services, food services, and cleaning services, over 10 percent of workers work the night shift. More than 7 percent of plant and industrial workers work the night shift, where mistakes on the job can result in serious injuries and fatalities from machinery malfunctions, chemical spills, fires, and explosions.It is important to consult workers comp lawyer anytime a worker is involved in industrial accidents.