Shift Work May Increase Risk of Work Injury

Stressed WorkerA recent study by researchers at the University of British Columbia looks at the effect that shift work has on the risk of injury. The study demonstrated that employees working night and rotating shifts are nearly twice as likely to be injured on the job than their “regular” day shift counterparts.

The study, published in the current issue of the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health, examined data on more than 30,000 Canadians between 1996-2006. It shows that although the overall rate of work injuries decreased in this time period, the rate of injuries did not decline for night shift workers. In addition the study found that this trend is even more pronounced for women, especially those working rotating shifts.

“The disruption of normal sleep patterns due to shift work can cause drowsiness or fatigue, which can lead to workplace injuries,” says Imelda Wong, a PhD Candidate at UBC’s School of Environmental Health and the study’s lead author. “Our research shows that people working rotating and night shifts are more likely to experience an injury than those who work regular day hours.”

The researchers postulated that because women may have additional roles such as childcare and household chores, adjusting to shift work may make maintaining sleep schedules more difficult.

“As more and more workers become involved in non-daytime shift work, we may see an increase in injuries, especially among women,” says co-author Chris McLeod, a research associate at UBC’s Centre for Health Services and Policy Research (CHSPR). “Regulatory agencies and employers need to consider policies and programs to help reduce the risk of injuries among shift workers.”

The study was funded by the WorkSafeBC-CHSPR Research Partnership. WorkSafeBC is British Columbia’s workers’ compensation board. The third co-author of the study is Paul Demers, director of the Occupational Cancer Research Centre in Toronto and clinical faculty member at the UBC School of Population and Public Health.

Journal Reference:

1. Wong IS, McLeod CB, Demers PA. Shift work trends and risk of work injury among Canadian workers. Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health, 2010;