Are You Dying to Work Nights
As employees who work to a variety of shift patterns and Rotas, we all know the negative impact shift work can have, especially those staff working relief. Working shifts including nights has the potential to affect our physical and mental health and can also come at a personal emotional cost, in all cases the effects can be short term but most concerning are the permanent, and often life changing, long term consequences.
Over the last several years there have been numerous studies into sleep, health and working shifts one of which has recently included EEAST and SCAS leading to the AACE publishing the following
Consequences of night work and irregular shifts can include
Increased risk of certain cancers
Circadian disruption leading to lack of sleep meaning night work is deemed a carcinogen by WHO
Increased risk of cardio-vascular diseases
Increased risk of obesity and eating disorders
Increased risk of gastrointestinal problems
Increased risk of diabetes
Increased risk of depression and other mental health issues
Increased risk of early death
Increased risk of family breakdown………………….
In an attempt to combat these risks, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) have issued guidelines that they encourage employers to adopt, however they are not obligatory but include the following examples
1. Build regular free weekends in the shift schedule
2. Allow 2 nights full sleep when switching between days or nights
3. Limit consecutive long shifts, night shifts and early morning shifts to a maximum of 2 – 3
4. Consider the needs of vulnerable groups such as younger, older and pregnant workers
5. Encourage regular breaks and give choice where they are taken
6. Limit night shifts to 8 hours (including overtime)
There are other recommendations and suggestions, obviously some are more practical than others but they should all be given consideration by the employer.
Not everybody is able to do nights, or do nights safely, for a variety of reasons including personal reasons and health reasons, and as we get older it may become more difficult as our bodies naturally slow down. To ensure that we are fit and able to work nights, the employer Must comply with the following.
Employers MUST offer workers a free health assessment before they become a night worker. Workers do not have to accept.
The assessment MUST be written by a qualified health professional. It can be a questionnaire.
Employers MUST take into account that night work might increase a worker’s stress levels.
The worker MUST get a follow-up examination by a health professional when an employer is unsure if the worker is fit for night work.
A repeat assessment MUST be offered regularly.
The employer MUST offer suitable other work where possible if a worker has health problems that a doctor says are related to night work.
Employers MUST keep confidential records of:
I) Dates when assessments were offered (if a worker did not want one)
Branch Membership Officer
West Norfolk H&S Lead
Unison Branch 20106
East Of Englan Ambulance Service