Managing 24/7

Question: Is Shift Work Linked to Higher Work Injury Risk?


Answer: Yes. shiftworkers - especially female shiftworkers - face a higher risk of being hurt on the job than those who work “regular” 9 to 5 hours, according to a study by researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC).

The study, published in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health, examined labor and income statistics on 30,000 Canadians collected for the years of 1996 to 2006 to investigate trends in work injury (defined by receipt of workers’ compensation) and shift type.

3 Key Findings on Shift Work & Injury Risk:

  1. While overall rate of work injuries in Canada declined from 1996 to 2006, the rate of injuries to shiftworkers did not.
  2. Perhaps even more alarming is that night workers had almost twice the risk of being injured on the job than those who worked during the day.
  3. The data also showed the injury risk of shiftwork was more pronounced for women than men. The study authors suggest that because women are more likely to be responsible for childcare and household work in addition to their employment, they may have more difficulties adjusting to shiftwork and maintaining regular sleep schedules and are thus more fatigued.

Potential Causes of Increased Risk of Shift Work…
The authors of the study cited fatigue and sleep deprivation as the main reasons why there might be an increased risk for night shift workers.

"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.

Number of Canadian Shiftworkers Increasing
The number of Canadians working non-standard hours has increased dramatically in recent decades. The number of women in rotating and night shift work increased by 95 percent during the study period, primarily in the health care sector. For men, the increase was 50 percent, mostly in manufacturing and trades.

Cost of Shift Work Injuries to Canada… $50.5 million
In 2006, 307,000 work-related injury claims associated with shift work represented more than $50.5 million in costs to Canada's workers' compensation system.

"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."

How Can you Reduce the Risk?
The good news is that more and more industries around the world are taking such findings to heart and instituting Fatigue Risk Management Systems (FRMS) to help reduce the risks of accidents and injuries to their 24/7 workforce.

And data from 341 respondents in Shiftwork Practices 2014 shows that a fully implemented FRMS is a key and proven strategy for minimizing fatigue (Figure 1).

Effect of FRMS on Fatigue

FIGURE 1: Operations that had a fully implemented FRMS were less likely to report having a moderate/severe fatigue problem.

If you’re interested in learning more about FRMS and how you can reduce the injury risk for your shiftworkers, visit our FRMS homepage, call CIRCADIAN at 781-439-6300 or email a specialist at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

1)    University of British Columbia. “Shift Work Linked to Higher Risk of Work Injury, Canadian Study Finds.” ScienceDaily, 3 November 2010.
2)    Wong IS, McLeod CB, Demers PA. “Shift work trends and risk of work injury among Canadian workers.” Scand J Work Environ Health, 2010; ePub transitions.

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