Employees Who Long Work Hours, Too Many Consecutive Work Days Run Risk Of Ergonomics-Related Injuries
employee involvement in schedule selection, long work days, and an
excess of consecutive work days are all linked to increased risk of
ergonomics-related injuries, according to a new report
work-life conditions and sleep deprivation can also lead to ergonomics
injuries and lost workdays, especially among employees in
extended-hours positions (regularly working outside the hours of 7 a.m.
to 7 p.m.), according to the report published by Circadian
"We have long
known that long work hours, high fatigue levels, and work schedules
that fail to account for human physiological needs are linked to a 20
percent increased rate of workers’ compensation claims among
facilities with extended-hours operations," said Kirsty Kerin, Ph.D.,
Circadian ergonomics specialist and one of the principal authors of
"Ergonomics Risks, Myths, and Solutions for Extended Hours Operations."
Kerin’s report further details the link between work practices
and ergonomics injuries, such as musculoskeletal disorders (MSD).
The study notes that:
- In a
survey of over 12,500 extended hours workers, 30 percent of male
workers, and 41 percent of female workers reported "Chronic or
Frequent" back pain, while 16 percent of maleworkers and 27 percent of
female workers reported "Chronic or Frequent" wrist pain.
deprivation could possibly be damaging in terms of muscle, ligament, or
tendon injury. With the average extended-hours employee sleeping only
5.1 hours to 5.5 hours each day when working a night shift, they could
face an increased risk of ergonomic injuries.
balance of work and home life is important in controlling the number of
lost workdays due to MSD complaints. Both men and women who face
simultaneous presence of high mental workload and increased domestic
workload have increased neck and shoulder MSDs.
in sleep affect pain and negatively impact the time it takes a worker
to return to work after suffering a soft-tissue injury such as low back
- • Six
days of restricted sleep (4 hours per 24-hour period) caused changes to
the sleep architecture that are similar to the changes seen in people
suffering from depression. Also, lack of sleep causes changes in
several natural body rhythms of hormone secretion including melatonin,
cortisol, thyroid-stimulating hormone, leptin, prolactin and growth
conclusions raise significant new questions for managers of extended
hours facilities, in which overtime levels have reached all time highs,
and in which employees regularly work evenings, nights, rotations, and
also challenged long-held myths on work schedules and ergonomics,
clearly finding that 12-hour schedules are not inherently more
dangerous for employees.
percent of extended-hours facilities using some form of 12-hour
schedule in 2003, this conclusion is important to note when designing
alternative work schedules. In particular, the authors found:
working more than eight hours a day was shown to increase ergonomic
injury rates, working two to four weekends a month was also shown to
have a negative impact. Since most 12-hour schedules limit consecutive
workdays to four, and provide employees with twice as many weekends off
as eight-hour schedules, there are pros and cons to each schedule type
and 12-hour shifts are not inherently problematic.
risk factors for neck and shoulder ergonomic injuries include overtime
and unsatisfactory leisure time, which can be linked to poorly designed
schedules or excess work hours.
who reported little or no influence over their work schedule had
significant increases in ergonomic injuries of the shoulders, hips and
extended-hours operations can implement numerous interventions to
address the increased risk of ergonomics injuries for the 24 million
Americans who regularly work nights, rotating shifts, irregular and
on-call schedules. "Involving employees in schedule selection, training
workers on managing the work-life demands of working extended hours,
and revisiting workplace policies such as break rules and rest periods
can significantly decrease the risk of costly accidents and injuries,"
said Alex Kerin, Ph.D., Circadian ergonomics specialist and the other
management initiatives to decrease employee fatigue while at work and
commuting to the job, as well as improve sleep quality, also represent
critical interventions for extended hours employers.
an international research and consulting firm assisting companies with
extended hours operations to improve profits by increasing productivity
and reducing the increased costs, risks, and liabilities of human
For more information on Circadian, visit www.circadian.com