Throughout my working career to date, I have found myself in a position where shift work was part and parcel of the working contract. While studying after school and at college before becoming a “life long” mature student, starting work at 5.00pm and finishing at 12 midnight was something I became accustomed to. This particular work was concentrated within the food and service industry and it at times involved work throughout the night and at weekends. If we were to think about it, without shift work and people who work outside of what many of us would call “normal working hours”, a lot of the luxuries we take for granted would not be a readily available to us. Bread for example is a perfect example of this as is our morning newspaper. The truck drivers travelling the length and breath of the country to deliver such commodities is also a very good example of what goes on without us even knowing…..

Recent research published in the Occupational Environmental Medicine journal noted some chronic effects of shift work on the employee at many levels. Normal sleep patterns are disturbed, the body’s natural circadian rhythm is thrown out of balance. Chronic cardiac, gastrointestinal, obesity and diabetic concerns are also part of these new and emerging patterns. As an experienced safety professional within industry and indeed now finding myself back in the industries I grew up in, I have witnessed with fatal consequences the devastating effects of working long hours.

Despite its challenges however, this type of work if planned, managed and rolled out properly can be adopted as follows:

  • Ensuring shift patterns are correctly matched to production plans
  • Looking to see if the shift is actually necessary
  • Ensuring enough manpower is available to cover adequately the shift cycle
  • Ensuring enough manpower is available to cover everyday issues like holidays, sick leave etc

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* SHP, Jan 2015, pg.8