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What Risks Do Twelve-Hour Industrial Shifts Pose?

Study after study has shown that long hours, particularly long-hour shift work, can result in “stress, fatigue, negative mood, discomfort, physiological dysfunction, and poor health behaviors,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Additionally, long hours can lead to significant on-the-job fatigue, increasing the chances that a workplace injury will occur. A Houston workplace injury lawyer can assist if you’re harmed by a dangerously long shift.

1. Increased Risk of Fatigue and Injuries

Long work hours, extended shifts, or irregular shifts can lead to increased fatigue, stress, and lack of concentration. This is partly due to disruptions in the body’s natural circadian rhythm, which is programmed for sleeping during night hours. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) points out that fatigue caused by such demanding work schedules can result in physical and mental stress, potentially leading to workplace accidents and health hazards.

2. Disrupted Sleep Patterns and Domestic Issues

The transition from eight-hour to 12-hour rotating shifts can lead to increased fatigue levels due to constant changes in sleep patterns. This had a chain reaction effect, causing a rise in fatigue-related injuries and an increase in domestic violence, attributed to a combination of fatigue and after-work alcohol consumption. The introduction of these shifts led to a significant rise in industrial accidents and family dislocation.

3. Ergonomic-Related Injuries

Long workdays and consecutive workdays are linked to an increased risk of ergonomic-related injuries. Factors such as poor work/life conditions and sleep deprivation, especially among employees in extended-hours positions, contribute to ergonomic injuries and lost workdays. Sleep deprivation, in particular, poses a risk for muscle, ligament, or tendon injury, with extended-hours employees averaging only 5.1 to 5.5 hours of sleep when working a night shift.

4. Guidelines for Safer Shiftwork Schedule

To mitigate these risks, it’s recommended to establish maximum limits for days and nights worked per week, including overtime, and to keep schedules regular and predictable. Employers are advised to provide frequent rest breaks, especially for highly repetitive or strenuous work, and ensure workers have at least two consecutive rest days.

Education on the importance of good sleep and alternative arrangements to permanent night shifts are also important strategies to combat the increased risk of injury. However, we understand that shifting company culture to accommodate safer shift work can be a challenge, and many companies do not make the shift toward fostering a healthier work environment.

What if You Become Injured or Ill?

If you or somebody you love has been injured or become ill as a result of their work environment, we encourage you to reach out to an attorney immediately. Recovering compensation after a workplace injury or illness can be challenging. Even though most employers have workers’ compensation benefits in place, not every employer in Texas is required to carry this insurance. Additionally, just because an employer has workers’ comp does not necessarily mean that recovering compensation will be easy.

A work injury lawyer can examine the facts of your case and help you determine the best steps moving forward. If your injury or illness was caused by overwork or an unhealthy or unsafe work environment, you may be able to recover additional compensation.

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