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Physical and Biological Hazards of the Workplace, 3rd Edition by Peter H. Wald, Gregg M. Stave

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Chapter 10SHIFT WORK

Allene J. Scott

Shift work refers to hours of work occurring outside the regular daytime schedule, that is, work schedules not falling between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. According to the May 2004 Work Schedules and Work at Home supplement to the Current Population Survey by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, considering only the primary job of full‐time workers, 19% of male and 16% of female workers are shift workers including 3–4% each reporting working “irregular schedules” (varying with the needs of the business), rotating shifts, or night shifts. Over one half of protective service workers, for example, police and firefighters, are shift workers. Similarly the majority of employees in eating and drinking establishments work nondaytime schedules. One third of transportation workers are shift workers. Industries with 5% or less of employees working shift work schedules include construction, education, finance, and insurance.

Alertness and performance of shift workers, particularly when working schedules involving the night (graveyard) shift, may be compromised. Night workers and rotating shift workers are at increased risk of falling asleep on the job and of falling asleep when driving home after work.1,2 Public safety has been compromised by catastrophes involving chemical plant, nuclear power plant, and transportation accidents attributed to work schedule‐related drowsiness.3,4

Shift work also takes a toll on individuals and their families, due to conflicts ...

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