Working Irregular Hours: Safety Tips for Shift Workers
With the ongoing demand for round-the-clock services, most industries have introduced shift working to keep up with the demand. However, such work can have potential adverse effects on employee health and safety. The workers face a host of challenges including stress, feelings of isolation from friends and family, digestive problems, physical and mental fatigue. Shift workers also cope differently with shift work depending on their responsibilities, fitness, health, lifestyle, and age. Below are some of the essential tips to help increase alertness, improve sleep quality, and reduce health risks for shift workers.
Light the Work Area Properly
Studies suggest that light increases alertness. The work area needs to be brightly lit to prevent possible accidents. Workers can easily slip and fall if they’re walking or working in poorly lit areas. Ensure there is sufficient lighting around step units, walkways, and staircases at all times.
Eat Proper Diet
The timing and quality of your meals are vital. Most shift workers encounter digestive problems due to poor diet and disruption of the body clock. You need to plan your meals to help you stay alert at work. Choose foods that are easy to digest such as fruits, milk products, salad, bread, rice, and vegetables. Spicy, fatty, and heavy meals are more difficult to digest hence can make you feel drowsy during your shift. Avoid sugary foods as they can provide a short-term energy boost before a dip in energy levels. Drink plenty of fluids to help prevent dehydration that could affect both your mental and physical performance.
Breaks can help ward off sleepiness until the shift is over. You can offer one or two exercise breaks during the shift to help the workers stay active. Encourage your workers to spend at least 30 minutes a day on physical activity. This can include joining a gym, going for a walk, or taking part in a regular exercise class. They should cut down or give up smoking or taking alcohol. Sedatives and stimulants such as coffee or sleeping pills should also be discouraged since persistent use can increase the risk of dependence.
Some employers and supervisors tend to prepare shift work timetables without consulting the employees. This could affect the morale of some employees and hence their alertness and productivity when working. It’s important to first request volunteers since some employees would prefer working on shifts for different reasons. Maybe they want their days free for other pursuits or they want to be with the children while the other spouse is working. and will have a more positive attitude towards the job than those who feel they’re forced to it.
Explain What Shift Work Entails
Shift work will no doubt change the lives of the workers. They need to understand what they’re about to face before they decide to take the job on a night shift. You should clearly explain to them what the job entails and give them a chance to think over it before making a decision.
Pay a Differential
Incentives have proven to be effective in enhancing workplace safety and employee productivity. A few pounds in the paycheck can be a good incentive to consider for shift workers. You may decide to offer a differential when the workers work in shift and comply with the relevant laws and regulations.