Jan 1, 2008

Shiftwork schedules in the 24/7 world

Shiftwork experts often are asked what is the best or worst work schedule. There is no simple answer to this question because there is no ideal schedule that fits every situation. Good and bad points can be found in most work schedules. To determine what makes a good schedule for your operation it is important to consider a broad range of factors.

Types of Shiftwork Schedules
There are hundreds of different shiftwork schedules, also called rota. However, it is difficult to accurately count the many shiftwork schedules or rota being used. No thorough records are kept by the federal government, trade organizations, or labor unions. Different shiftwork schedules might be used by the same occupation, the same industry, or even the same workplace.

The most common shift schedule or rota probably is five days on a single shift followed by two days off. If this is a rotating shift schedule, the worker will change to a new shift after the days off. Depending on the job, it is even possible to work 7, 10, or 14 days in a row. Off-shore oil rig workers, for example, might have a shiftwork schedule that has them work two weeks out on the rig followed by two weeks off at home.

Since so many different shiftwork schedules exist, researchers have thought of ways to measure different features of the schedules. These features are used to study how work schedules might affect safety, health, or productivity. The features are listed in Table 1 with explanations below.

Shiftwork schedule features include:
  • Is the schedule permanent (a fixed schedule) or a rotating schedule?
  • How long a shift might be.
  • How many shifts are worked before a rest day.
  • How many rest days are on weekends.
  • Whether there is overtime.
  • How much rest is taken between shifts.
  • How much rest is taken during the shift.
  • Whether the work schedule is regular and predictable.

As we will explain in future posts, all of these features can affect the amount of stress and fatigue a person feels because of the work schedule. If people experience too much stress and fatigue, then they might not do their jobs safely and efficiently. Or they might develop health problems.

More on these shiftwork schedule features in future posts. We are also putting together infomration to post about shift scheduling software, which we will post with the important note that coming up with a schedule is relatively easy but coming up with a good one for your operation, and implementing it successfully require time, deliberation, and careful consideration.

Source: Plain Language About Shiftwork published (NIOSH)

No comments: