Night Shift Safety Hazards

21 June 2017

construction workers during the night shift

Night shifts are a fact of life for many companies and employees. While they allow companies to keep a job going 24/7 if there is a deadline in place, in many cases night shifts are used to avoid causing disruption during busy, ‘high traffic’ periods.

Night shifts are often not very popular as they can be inconvenient to most lifestyles. Depending on the nature of the job, there may be hazards associated with night shift work. Therefore, it is imperative that employers are aware of the risks and employees have received the proper worksite safety training to cope with night shifts.

Is it legal?

According to health and safety authorities every individual employer must undertake a risk assessment test to measure the risks when working at night and if it is possible for the worker to be working at night in the first place.

Physical Affect / Performance

Working unusual hours has a huge effect on both your mental and physical health. The human body has follows a daily rhythm which is known as ‘circadian rhythms’. Circadian rhythms regulate body temperature, metabolism, digestion, blood pressure, secretion of adrenaline, sleeping and waking. These rhythmical processes form the body’s internal clock and are coordinated so as to allow for high activity during the day and low activity at night.

Working night shifts upsets these rhythms and leads to increased fatigue, stress, and lack of concentration. The Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) states that “workers generally will not acclimate to night work, and sleep patterns will generally be disrupted so the non-work periods do not provide full recovery, resulting in sleep deprivation.”

The main risks:

  • Sleep loss/fatigue
  • Lowered Performance
  • Increased Accidents
  • Stress
  • Headaches
  • Lack of motivation

Safety Plan:

All employers should put together a safety plan for their workers working both day and night shifts. Some features they should include are:

  • Educate your managers and workers about the importance of sleep
  • Ensure all your workers have undergone a risk assessment test
  • Ensure all employees are aware of the dangers coming to and from work due to fatigue – advise on carpools/public transport/taxis
  • Ensure the site is well lit at night as workers should not be allowed to work in the dark
  • Allow workers to have regular rests throughout their shift
  • Ensure all workers are wearing the correct PPE i.e. Hard hats, High Visibility etc.

Workers should also be conscious of what they need to do to prepare themselves for a night shift.

  • Take a nap of 1-4 hours before the first night shift
  • Keep your sleeping pattern regular
  • Have your largest meal after your day-time sleep, before starting the night shift
  • Take short breaks during your shift
  • Eat balanced and regular meals
  • Avoid fatty foods entirely during your shift
  • Ensure you have the right PPE on

Managers and supervisors should learn to recognize signs and symptoms of the potential health effects associated with night shifts. Workers who are being asked to work night shifts should be diligently monitored for the signs and symptoms of fatigue. Any employee showing such signs should be evaluated and possibly directed to leave the active area and seek rest.

Plan to have an adequate number of personnel available to enable workers to take breaks, eat meals, relax, and sleep. If at remote sites, ensure, as far as possible, that there is a quiet, secluded area designated for rest and recuperation.

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Sonya Sikra

Sonya is the Brand Strategy Manager at GoContractor. She specializes in communicating how implementing tech in construction can drive productivity and profit.

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