What do the tragedies of Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Exxon Valdez have in common? They all occurred during a night shift.
Fatigue is a major occupational safety concern for shift workers, particularly those working in the transportation sector. Outside the workplace, extreme fatigue poses a risk to anyone who engages in activity requiring concentration and quick reflexes – whether it is driving, repairing at home or doing ski.
The sleep-security link
Sleep is as essential to survival as water and food. Even the loss of only two hours of sleep can have a detrimental effect on speed of mind and performance. Sleep deprivation affects, among other things, alertness and the ability to respond to an emergency. Symptoms of sleep deprivation include: judgment, decision-making and memory impaired; A slower reaction time; Lack of concentration; A fixed gaze; And an aggravation of the mood.
Studies to monitor brain activity have shown that one in five watchkeepers doze off during their shift. These workers often do not even notice their falling asleep. According to sleeping researchers, drowsy drivers can cause as many accidents as drivers who are intoxicated. Regardless of motivation, professionalism, training or compensation, a very tired person can fall asleep at any time, despite the possible consequences of inattention.
The circadian clock
The physiological functions of the human body have a periodicity of 24 hours. In other words, they have circadian rhythms. Time points, such as daylight and work / rest time, are used to set the circadian clock. Moving from one time zone to another or from a day shift to a night shift requires the circadian clock to move to a different schedule. It takes time to adapt to the new schedule and during the transition period, symptoms similar to sleep deprivation can occur.
A disruption of the circadian rhythm coupled with a loss of sleep can lead to a dangerous rise in fatigue.
Factors in the Workplace
The environment and type of work can increase the effects of sleep deprivation and circadian rhythms. A dark environment, limited visual acuity (eg due to weather), high temperature, intense noise and comfort all tend to aggravate fatigue. Similarly, a worker becomes fatigued faster if he or she performs tasks over a long period of time, tasks that take time or repetitive, slow-moving, difficult, boring or monotonous tasks.
How to fight fatigue
Despite the fact that night work and early hours do not promote good health, shift work plays an essential role in the workplace today. Costly equipment must operate at full capacity. Goods must arrive at the right time. Patients in hospitals need care 24 hours a day.
Lifestyle, operations and physiological disorders are key elements in the fight against fatigue.
Workers can reduce fatigue by adopting a healthy diet, controlling stress and exercising. A healthy diet will provide you with energy that lasts – opt for foods with complex carbohydrates (starch) rather than those containing oses (sugar); And avoid greasy foods and empty foods. Do not be overwhelmed by the negative circumstances. Exercise regularly to ensure a good cardiovascular system, strengthen muscles and maintain flexibility.
Employers can avoid putting workers’ lives at risk by analyzing working conditions, removing barriers to work safety, and providing training on sleep and safety. In particular, it was discovered that shorter shifts and a rotation of the work schedule, taking into account the orientation of the sun (morning, afternoon, evening), have the effect of reducing negative impacts.