Suggestions to Protect Workers in Extended or Unusual Shift Situations

Nontraditional work shifts are typically more stressful physically, mentally, and emotionally, so it’s important to take precautionary steps to ensure workers’ safety. A normal work shift is generally considered to be no more than eight consecutive hours, five days a week with at least an eight-hour rest. Anything beyond that is considered extended or unusual and will generally result in reduced productivity and alertness.

Nontraditional work shifts can disrupt the body’s regular schedule, leading to increased fatigue, stress, and lack of concentration. These effects lead to an increased risk of operator error, injuries and/or accidents. While there are currently no specific OSHA Standards, there are steps organizations can take to improve employee safety.

Whenever possible, extended shifts should be limited and should not be maintained for more than a few days, especially if they require heavy physical or mental exertion. Additional breaks and meals, to allow employees adequate time for rest and recovery, should be provided when shifts go past normal work periods. Prolonged exposures to any hazards exceeding established standards should be limited and monitored. Tasks that require heavy physical labor or intense concentration should be performed at the beginning of the shift if possible.

In the event that extended or unusual hours are unavoidable, managers and supervisors should know how to recognize signs and symptoms of the potential health effects associated with these situations and should closely monitor any employee being asked to work extended or irregular shifts.

To learn more about how Saint Francis Medical Center can help protect your workforce from fatigue, call Chad Clippard, business liaison, at 573-331-3019.