Jun 5, 2008

Injury and death on nightshift reminders of potential dangers of shiftwork

A 4:30 am accident killed a shiftworker at a plant in Redruth, England this week.  In a separate incident, a nightshift worker became trapped in machinery at a factory in Luton, England at 5:30 am.  After an hour and a half, the Luton shiftworker was freed and taken to a nearby hospital where his injuries were said to be non-life threatening.

Investigations of these incidents are not complete so it is important not to jump to conclusions.  But, late in the nightshift, when both of these incidents occurred, is a particularly dangerous time for shiftworkers.  Human physiology -- our circadian rhythms -- conspires to drop our alertness at that time.  At the same time, physical exhaustion and fatigue typically increase during the course of the shift.  Regardless of the cause of these accidents (and impaired alertness is VERY difficult to detect after an accident), these incidents should be a reminder to shiftworkers to be particularly vigilant in the late hours of the nightshift.

More importantly, managers in 24/7 operations should maintain records of safety incidents by time of day, noting any trends, and take appropriate steps to make sure shiftworkers can maintain adequate alertness.  We've said it before but shiftworker lifestyle training, coupled with appropriate shift scheduling, fatigue countermeasures, and other shiftwork management best practices are essential to maintain the health and safety of your workers and the productivity of your operation.

For more information see:
* Investigation follows death of shiftworker
* Factory worker trapped by ankles for 90 minutes

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