You may find it tough to climb out of bed some days, especially on dark, early-fall mornings. But for shift workers, sleep disruption can be a daily challenge. Working while your body wants to sleep has been linked to a variety of physical and psychological health issues, especially for those who change shifts. Shift workers typically sleep less than others, and the resulting drowsiness on the job can pose major safety risks. Reduced concentration, decreased motivation and slower reactions times can increase the risk of accidents and injuries and decrease productivity.
If you’ve got shift workers on the payroll, make sure you’re doing these things to keep them healthy and safe:
- Allow employees to take scheduled breaks to walk around and stretch to keep their energy up.
- Make sure employees take extra safety precautions while working irregular shifts to compensate for less alertness.
- Don’t allow employees to operate heavy machinery, drive, or handle hazardous materials if they feel drowsy. Make sure they feel comfortable letting a supervisor know if they don’t feel alert enough to take on a task.
- Supervisors should assign a variety of changing tasks to keep shift workers alert and attentive.
- Pay attention to the environment. Provide good lighting, a comfortable temperature, and proper ventilation.
- Make sure employees aren’t relying on caffeine to stay alert. Coffee and other caffeinated drinks can increase alertness temporarily, but they’re not a substitute for sleep.
- Encourage workers to eat a balanced, nutritious diet. Consider offering free, fresh fruit or other healthy snacks during the evening and overnight shifts.
- Train employees on sleep hygiene, including how to make the most of daytime sleeping hours (keep the room dark, go to sleep at the same time every day, etc.).
You may leave the building at 5 p.m. But be sure to address the risks to those who continue to work into the evening and overnight.