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Shiftwork

Does your workplace have:

  • Employees who are working rotating or permanent shifts?
  • What about a condensed work week?

The Institute for Work & Health explains “while there is no precise definition of what shiftwork is, most studies on shiftwork classify shiftworkers as anyone working outside regular daytime hours (i.e. between approximately 7 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday through Friday)”.

What Shiftwork Looks Like in Peel

32% of Peel’s workforce works some form of shiftwork (Canadian Community Health Survey, 2003).

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Shiftwork Effects and Recommendations

The Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCAW) have advice for workplaces to support their staff, as well as tips for employees to manage a variety of the effects of shiftwork:

Shiftwork Effects

Workplace Recommendations

Tips for Shiftworkers

Digestive Problems

  • Constipation, diarrhea
  • Mediocre diet
  • Increase in indigestion, heartburn, ulcers
  • Loss of appetite, increased snacking
  • Ensure that your cafeteria and/or vending machines offer plenty of healthy options
  • Provide a 24 hour cafeteria
  • Have onsite exercise facilities
  • Limit alcohol & caffeine
  • Avoid fast food & unhealthy vending machine
  • Reduce foods and snacks high in salt and fat
  • Bring your lunch to work
  • Follow Canada’s Food Guide

Fatigue

  • Circadian rhythms interrupted which can affect:
  • Concentration
  • Memory
  • Reaction time
  • Motivation
  • Chronic fatigue, insomnia
  • Increased risk of accidents
  • Reduce night work as much as possible
  • Do not allow for more than 5 to 7 consecutive shifts
  • Train workers on the effects of shiftwork
  • Plan shorter, more frequent breaks
  • Have a brightly lit workplace
  • Organize work so the most demanding tasks are done early in the shift when workers are more alert
  • Do not work an excessive amount of overtime
  • Do the most demanding tasks early in your shift
  • Do not work more than 5 to 7 shifts in a row
  • Avoid split shifts
  • Try to get adequate sleep

Family Difficulties

  • Not enough time to spend with kids and/or spouse
  • Hard to find child care
  • Miss out going to children’s activities
  • Unable to help with homework, go to school activities
  • More arguments, less communication
  • Higher divorce rate
  • Assist workers to find 24 hour day care
  • Provide onsite daycare
  • Offer workshops on such topics as conflict resolution and communication
  • If possible, do not schedule weekend work
  • Have an Employee Assistance Provider (EAP). Stress that it’s confidential.
  • Plan family activities on your days off
  • Write events & activities on a calendar
  • Talk! Talk! Talk!
  • Let friends and family know what shift you are on
  • Try to have one meal a day together
  • Call or email family daily
  • Make time for you and your spouse

Refer to “Shiftwork: Health Effects and Solutions” (PDF 128KB, 7 pages) for additional information on: sleep, depression, stress and leisure time.

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The Impact of Shiftwork On The Bottom Line

Circadian Technologies, an international researching and consulting firm specializing in shiftwork reports that shiftwork costs employers an extra $8,577 per extended hours employee.  The additional unintended costs are incurred from: absenteeism, accidents, lost productivity, turnover and health care.

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Shiftwork & The Law

While shiftwork is not dealt with specifically, Ontario workers are protected by the Occupational Health & Safety Act. “There is a general duty on employers to take all reasonable precautions to protect the health and safety of workers.” Duties of employers are specified in Section 25 of the Act and supervisor duties are detailed in Section 27.

It is important to note that both a corporation and an individual can be fined and/or face jail time for a contravention of the Act. Consult the Offenses and Penalties section for details.

Lastly, employees should know that they have both the right to refuse unsafe work and/or the right to stop unsafe work.

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Facts & Stats

  • Statistics Canada reports:

    • Men who work 45-79 hours/week are 40% more likely to sustain a workplace injury.   For those working 80 hours/week or more, the odds of injury nearly double.
    • 30% (PDF 1.41MB, page 14 of 36) of shiftworkers have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep
    • 25% (PDF 1.41MB, page 14 of 36) of male night shift workers sleep less than 6.5 hours per night thereby accumulating a large sleep debt

  • Adults 32-59 years old who routinely sleep 5 hours or less are 50% more likely to develop hypertension than those who sleep 7-8 hours per night (Gangwisch et al, 2006).
  • Fatigue is a factor in 58 per cent of single vehicle collisions. Seventy-four per cent of single vehicle collisions take place between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m.1
  • Follow up investigations of the Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Bhopal, and Exxon Valdez disasters conclude that in each case human fatigue was an influencing factor.

1Lamond, N., Dawson, D. (1999) Quantifying the performance impairment associated with fatigue. Journal of Sleep Research 8 (4), 255–262.

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Additional Resources

- For employers:

- For employees:

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Other Topics

Revised: June 17, 2011

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