Friday, 19 December 2014 17:02

Top 10 Shift Work Myths

Myth #1 – Overtime within your workforce is evenly distributed

Best practices suggest that when overtime is equally distributed across a workforce, up to approximately 12% overtime is an acceptable rate. However, overtime rates vary across industries, companies and employees.

Research indicates that in many industries, 20% of employees work 60% or more of the overtime (Figure 4).1

Figure 4. Actual distribution of overtime at an extended hours facility.1Overtime distribution

Since accidents and safety problems can be caused by one fatigued employee, the risk of an accident occurring can rise as the distribution of overtime becomes increasingly skewed.

The imbalance exposes the pool of high overtime employees to extra health risks, and exposes the company to increased absenteeism costs, health care costs, safety issues, and legal liability.

Myth #2 – Employee productivity increases linearly

Studies and reports suggest that productivity can suffer with increased overtime hours.

Data from 18 manufacturing industries in the U.S. shows that for most of these industries, productivity (measured as output per hour) declines when overtime is used.2

On average, a 10% increase in overtime results in a 2.4% decrease in productivity (more output is achieved, but the number of hours worked increases as well—not as much output per hour is realized).

This performance decline is confirmed by the work of J. Nevison of Oak Associates. In his white paper, Nevison brings together scientific, business, and government data to demonstrate that little productive work takes place over and above 50 hours per week (Figure 2)3. Two other studies, also examined in the white paper, show that productive hours drop by an additional 10 hours when the number of consecutive long workweeks increases from four to 12, highlighting the cumulative effects that overtime can have on productivity.

Figure 2. Productive vs. actual work hours, from a collection of four studies4
overtime and productivity

Myth #3 – Adequate staffing means having enough employees to cover permanent positions

Often overlooked are the real drivers of overtime in 24/7 operations. In any given week, employees may not be available to fill their scheduled shifts because of multiple reasons including:

  • Vacation days
  • Floating holidays
  • Sickness related absenteeism
  • Non-sickness related absenteeism/personal days
  • Injury-related absenteeism
  • Training
  • Special work assignments (committees, team building, projects, etc.)
  • Jury duty, bereavement, FMLA, etc.
  • Turnover/delays in filling position with adequately trained employees

Many 24/7 operations do not realistically estimate or measure the full impact of these factors and hence run their shifts with fewer staff than needed, effectively increasing the relief coverage requirement (i.e. overtime) and impacting the time on duty and off duty of their personnel.

Furthermore, many companies do not monitor and analyze their historical payroll and human resources data so that they are unable to make even simple forecasts about scheduled and unscheduled absenteeism. Without this data, they are unable to accurately define seasonal, weekly and daily fluctuations in coverage demand.

Based on CIRCADIAN's 2014 Shiftwork Practices data, we found that the "leaner" operations (i.e. reduced staffing levels) reported higher absenteeism rates (Figure 1).

Interestingly, over 50% of all unscheduled absences are due to either: personal needs, stress, or an entitlement mentality (i.e. “I’ve earned it”).5

Figure 1. Staffing Levels & Absenteeism Rate 5absenteeism and staffing levels

Myth #4 – Operational decisions on shift scheduling are best if mandated by management.

Management-mandated work schedules often prevent an operation from reaching its full potential in terms of operational costs, productivity, efficiency, and safety.

Employee participation is just as important in the process of designing and implementing the new work schedule as the characteristics of the new work schedule itself.6-9

Surveys suggest that management-mandated work schedules can lead to:10

  • Increased absenteeism
  • Excessive overtime costs
  • Increased health problems and fatigue
  • Decreased morale
  • Increased turnover costs
  • Recruitment problems

Studies comparing methods of shift schedule selection have found that employee involvement in schedule redesign increases the benefits of schedule redesign considerably, as compared to management-mandated schedule changes. These benefits include:11-18

  • Increased worker satisfaction with schedule design
  • Decreased unscheduled absences from illness
  • Improved physical and psychological vigor
  • Decreased turnover and number of vacant positions
  • Increased organizational commitment
  • Improved employee and management relations

Myth #5 – If a shift schedule works well at our other plant, it will work for us here.

This is a common misconception in companies with multiple facility locations. A shift schedule that’s effective and well-liked at one facility can cause disagreements and tension among workers at a seemingly identical facility.

Shift schedules need to be based on the social, operational and physiological needs of the workforce and managers at each specific company site. Some factors to consider include:

  • Geographic location
  • The lifestyles of workers
  • Cultural differences
  • Worker demographics

These factors can greatly impact the popularity of different shift schedules among workers. For example, avoiding rush hour traffic is often important to workers in large cities, whereas workers in rural areas might prefer longer spans of days off.

Best shift scheduling practices suggest choosing a schedule with features that support the priorities of workers at each individual facility.

Pleasing everyone may be impossible, but having the majority of workers in favor of a new shift schedule will greatly increase the likelihood of a successful schedule change.

Myth #6 – Given the choice, workers always select the best schedule for them and the worst for the company.

Much conflict between management and shiftworkers is the result of misunderstanding and poor communication.

Management often feels that it is doing its part by “telling,” rather than both telling and listening to the needs of workers. Workers may feel that they’re providing valuable insight, but management only hears the complaints. As a result, management may feel that workers only care about themselves and making money.

While the occasional worker may try to game the system, most workers are truly concerned with the well-being of the company. After all, workers realize that any problem that the company faces will ultimately affect them. In light of this, most workers will choose a schedule that will satisfy the company while still fulfilling their individual needs.

The best way to ensure that workers understand the reasons for making any scheduling changes is by keeping them informed. This can be accomplished through company-wide meetings or events, as well as through regular emails or letters about the general state of the company.

Myth #7 – Falling asleep on the job is a matter of willpower

While curling up with a pillow and blanket at work is clearly deliberate, many fatigued individuals unknowingly experience microsleeps while working. A microsleep is a brief sleep episode that lasts up to 30 seconds, during which a person temporarily loses consciousness and external stimuli aren’t perceived.19

Individuals who experience microsleeps are often unaware that they briefly lost consciousness and will frequently deny that they fell asleep.20 When an individual arouses from a microsleep episode, it may feel like a brief lapse in attention or mind wandering.

Research suggests that even individual neurons can experience microsleeps, which means that your parts of the brain may be “offline” even if you’re seemingly awake.21

Microsleeps are most commonly associated with sleep deprivation and driving; however, microsleeps can also occur in the absence of sleep deprivation when completing monotonous, repetitive tasks.

Myth #8 – Napping during work is a lazy and unacceptable behavior

Before you write off napping as a leisurely activity that should be banned at work, you might want to consider the ways in which napping at your workplace can improve the alertness and productivity of workers.

Ten minute power naps provide immediate benefits upon awakening and boosts in performance that can last up to 4 hours!

Ten minute naps have been shown to: decrease fatigue, increase vigor, improve performance, improve communication, decrease blood pressure, improve reaction time, improve subject well-being, and increase alertness.

Longer naps that last 90 minutes (or longer) still offer many restorative benefits; however, they are not as efficient as power naps. Longer naps allow for memory consolidation and therefore have been shown to improve memory. Extended napping is frequently associated with profound sleep inertia, which can be crippling to productivity. In order to avoid the sleep inertia of long naps, it's advised to sleep a full 90 min sleep cycle in order to wake up at the lightest sleep stage.

Myth # 9 – Hours of service requirements are sufficient for mitigating employee fatigue

Most fatigue regulations start and end with hours of service policies. While this is a good starting place, it fails to address all of the factors that contribute to fatigue. To ensure the alertness of workers, a comprehensive fatigue risk management system (FRMS) needs to be in place.

CIRCADIAN® 5 Defenses FRMS Design

Fatigue risk management system

A fatigue risk management system (FRMS) is a data-driven, risk-informed, safety performance-based program that reduces the risk of fatigue-related incidents in 24/7 operations. An FRMS will continually monitor and reduce fatigue risk.

Workforces that have implemented fatigue risk management systems experience fewer problems with absenteeism, turnover and excessive overtime. Employees in these workforces have greater morale, less stress, and are more productive workers.

Myth #10 – There’s very little financial ROI with fatigue risk management

To some, fatigue might seem like a minor concern, yet it costs companies millions of dollars each year in excess costs, accidents and errors.

Fatigued workers cost employers $136.4 billion annually in health-related lost productive time (absenteeism and presenteeism), almost 4x more than their non-fatigued counterparts.22

Fatigued workers exhibit up to 4x the worker’s compensation costs as compared to non-fatigued workers (Figure 3).24 A recent meta-analysis of 27 observational studies found that sleep problems increase the risk of workplace injuries by 62 percent.23

Figure 3. Fatigue Levels & Worker’s Compensation24

fatigue and worker compensation Addressing and mitigating fatigue within an operation can significantly decrease excess costs related to: absenteeism, turnover, accidents, and healthcare.

fatigue risk management system savings

 

Debunk Other Shift Work Myths

Explore the variety of CIRCADIAN white papers that cover an assortment of 24/7 workforce topics including:

  • Shift Scheduling
  • Staffing Levels
  • Fatigue Risk Management Systems
  • Shiftwork Lifestyle Training
  • And much more!

white papers

 






REFERENCES

  1. CIRCADIAN databases
  2. Shepard E, Clifton T. Are Long Hours Reducing Productivity in Manufacturing. International Journal of Manpower 2000; 7.
  3. Nevison, J. Overtime Hours: The Rule of Fifty
  4. Permission from Nevison, Oak Associates.
  5. CIRCADIAN. 2014 Shiftwork Practices.
  6. Hauburger. Implementation of self-scheduling in the poison center. Vet. Hum. Toxicol. 39(3),175-7. 1997.
  7. Knauth P.The design of shift systems. Ergonomics 36(1-3),15-28. 1993.
  8. Knauth P. Changing schedules: shiftwork. Chronobiol. Int. 14(2),159-71. 1997.
  9. Kogi K, Di Martino VG. Trends in participatory process of changing shiftwork arrangements. Work & Stress 9 (2/3), 298-304. 1995.
  10. Circadian Technologies, Shiftwork Practices Survey 2002.
  11. Ala-Mursula et al. Employee control over working times: associations with subjective health and sickness absences. J. Epidemiol. Community Health 56(4),272-8. 2002.
  12. Beltzhoover M. Self-scheduling: an innovative approach. Nurs. Manage. 25(4),81-2. 1994.
  13. Bradley, Martin. Continuous personnel scheduling algorithms: a literature review. J. Soc. Health Syst. 2(2),8-23. 1991.
  14. Holtom et al. The relationship between work status congruence and work-related attitudes and behaviors. J. Appl. Psychol. 87(5),903-15. 2002.
  15. Moore-Ede M. The Twenty-Four Hour Society: Understanding Human Limits in a World that Never Sleeps. 1994.
  16. Smith PA et al. Change from slowly rotating 8-hour shifts to rapidly rotating 8-hour and 12-hour shifts using participative shift roster design. Scand. J. Work Environ. Health. 24(S3), 55-61. 1998.
  17. Teahan. Implementation of a self-scheduling system: a solution to more than just schedules! J. Nurs. Manag. 6(6),361- 81. 998. Erratum in: J. Nurs. Manag. 7(1),65. 1999.
  18. Sakai K et al. Educational and intervention strategies for improving a shift system: an experience in a disabled persons' facility. Ergonomics 36(1-3),219-25. 1993.
  19. International Classification of Sleep Disorders Diagnostic and Coding Manual, http://www.esst.org/adds/ICSD.pdf, page 343.
  20. Higgins, Laura; Fette Bernie (in press). "Drowsy Driving" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-06-12.
  21. Vyazovskiy, V. V., Olcese, U., Hanlon, E. C., Nir, Y., Cirelli, C., & Tononi, G. (2011). Local sleep in awake rats. Nature, 472(7344), 443-447.
  22. Ricci, J. A., Chee, E., Lorandeau, A. L., & Berger, J. (2007). Fatigue in the US workforce: prevalence and implications for lost productive work time. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 49(1), 1-10.
  23. Katrin Uehli, Amar J. Mehta, David Miedinger, Kerstin Hug, Christian Schindler, Edith Holsboer-Trachsler, Jörg D. Leuppi, et al. (2014). Sleep problems and work injuries: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep Medicine Reviews. doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2013.01.004
  24. Aguirre, A. Shiftwork Practices Survey, 2005.

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In September, the American Nurses Association released a position statement regarding nurse fatigue. According to the ANA, both registered nurses and employers have a joint responsibility to “reduce risks from nurse fatigue and to create and sustain a culture of safety, a healthy work environment, and a work-life balance.”

The ANA also stated that "registered nurses and employers have an ethical responsibility to carefully consider the need for adequate rest and sleep when deciding whether to offer or accept work assignments, including on-call, voluntary, or mandatory overtime.”

Here are five reasons why you should prioritize nurse fatigue management:

1. The Prevalence of Fatigue Among Nurses

An abundance of research data on nursing fatigue exists to support the conclusion that fatigue is a serious concern for the healthcare industry.

Compared to the 7-8 hours of sleep required for optimal alertness and performance, it’s sobering that 80% of nurses get less than 6 hours of sleep prior to working a shift and 55% of nurses report that they “almost always” or “all of the time” felt fatigued during work (Scott et al., 2007; Geiger-Brown et al., 2012; Canadian Nurses Association & Registered Nurses Association, 2010).

2. High Injury Rates Among Healthcare Workers

According to the Occupational Safety & Health Association (OSHA), the healthcare and social assistance industry reported more injury and illness cases than any other private industry sector in 2011.

Fatigued workers exhibit up to 4x the workers compensation costs of non-fatigued workers, as shown in Figure 1 (CIRCADIAN, 2005).

Between 2006 and 2011, the average workers’ compensation claim for a hospital injury was found to be $15,860 among the roughly 1,000 hospitals surveyed (Aon Risk Solutions, 2012).

Figure 1. Workers Compensation Claims & Fatigue Levels
workers compensation and worker fatigue

3. High Turnover Rates & United States Nursing Shortage

There is a nursing shortages as a significant segment of the nursing workforce is nearing retirement. Experts project that more than 1 million nurses will reach retirement age in the next 10 to 15 years. This poses a major concern for members of the healthcare industry, as nursing school enrollment rates have been on a steady decline. Because of these factors, it’s become increasingly important for healthcare systems to retain nurses.

It’s no secret that high turnover rates are having serious implications on the healthcare industry, as a national survey of home healthcare agencies reported a 21% turnover rate for registered nurses (Hospital and Healthcare Compensation Services, 2000).

Interestingly, turnover rates are found to be significantly higher in workforces experiencing employee fatigue and stress problems, as seen in Figure 2 (CIRCADIAN, 2005).

Figure 2. Association between Turnover Rates and Fatigue and Stress Levels

employee turnover fatigue and stress

Replacing a nurse’s position has been estimated to cost an employer between $27,000 and $103,000 (Li & Jones, 2012). Given the high cost, fatigue risk management can be a cost-effective approach for reducing the high turnover rate among nurses.

4. Overtime & Workplace Injuries

Research looking at 110,326 U.S. job records revealed that working in jobs with overtime schedules was associated with a 61% higher injury hazard rate as compared to jobs without overtime. Working at least 12 hours per day was associated with a 37% higher injury hazard rate and working at least 60 hours per week was associated with a 23% increased hazard rate (Dembe, Erickson, & Banks, 2005).

These findings may not even account for all workplace injuries. One study found that 24% of nurses and nursing assistants changed shifts or took sick leave to recover from an unreported injury (Siddharthan, Hodgson, Rosenberg, Haiduven, & Nelson, 2006).

5. Joint Commission Statement on Fatigue

In December 2011, the Joint Commission, which accredits more than 20,000 U.S. healthcare organizations, recommended that healthcare organizations “create and implement a fatigue management plan.”

According to the Joint Commission’s Sentinel Event Alert, Health Care Worker Fatigue and Patient Safety, “There are now some evidence-based actions that healthcare organizations can take to help mitigate the risk of fatigue that results from the extended work hours – and, therefore, protect patients from preventable adverse outcomes.”

Commitment to Care

The mission statement of most healthcare organizations highlights the organization’s commitment to excellence in providing health care, patient safety, and improving the well-being of their local community.

A commitment to excellence is only truly upheld when an organization employs all possible measures to ensure unsurpassed patient care and safety. This means addressing workforce problems that impact the individual care providers, as these issues can have a domino effect that negatively impacts the quality of patient care.

If your organization isn’t addressing and managing the fatigue of the care providers, then scientific research suggests that your organization will suffer lapses in its commitment to superior patient care.

Solutions for Nurse Fatigue

To learn more about solutions for addressing, mitigating and managing nurse fatigue, download our white paper titled “Fatigued Nurses: Assessing the Risk, Implementing the Defenses

Nurse Fatigue White Paperalt
About CIRCADIAN®

CIRCADIAN® is the global leader in providing 24/7 workforce performance and safety solutions for businesses that operate around the clock. Through a unique combination of consulting expertise, research, software tools and informative publications, CIRCADIAN helps organizations in 24/7 workforces optimize employee performance and reduce the inherent risks and costs of their extended hours operations.

REFERENCES

Aon Risk Solutions (2012). Health Care Workers Compensation Barometer.

Canadian Nurses Association & Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (2010): Nurse fatigue and patient safety research report. http://www.arnpei.ca/images/documents/ Fatigue_Safety_2010_EX%20Summary_e.pdf (retrieved February 22, 2013).

CIRCADIAN (2004). Shiftwork Practices 2004.

CIRCADIAN (2005). Shiftwork Practices 2005.

CIRCADIAN (2007). Shiftwork Practices 2007.

CIRCADIAN (2014). Shiftwork Practices 2014.

Geiger-Brown J et al. (2012): Sleep, sleepiness, fatigue, and performance of 12-hour-shift nurses. Chronobiology International 29(2): 211-219.

Hospital and Healthcare Compensation Services, Homecare Salary & Benefits Report, 2000-2001. Oakland, NJ: Hospital & Healthcare Compensation Service, 2000.

The Joint Commission (2011). Health care worker fatigue and patient safety. Sentinel Event Alert. 48.

Li , Y., & Jones, C.B. (2012). A literature review of nursing turnover costs. Journal of Nursing Management. 21(3): 405-418. (Dollar amounts presented here are adjusted to 2013 prices.

Siddharthan, K., Hodgson M., Rosenberg D., Haiduven D., and Nelson, A. (2006). Under-reporting of work-related musculoskeletal disorders in the Veterans Administration. International Journal of Health Care Quality Assurance. 19(6): 463-476

 





 

Operational decisions based on shift scheduling myths can often prevent an operation from reaching its full potential in terms of operational costs, productivity, efficiency and safety.

If your operation doesn’t involve employees in work schedule changes... it may be falling prey to these myths.

Employee participation is just as important in the process of designing and implementing the new work schedule as the characteristics of the new work schedule itself.1-4

Based on 2014 Shiftwork Practices data, employee-selected work schedules and management-mandated work schedules are the two most common methods for choosing shift schedules (Figure 1).5

Schedule selection methodology can influence the degree to which the new schedule is successful.

Figure 1. Schedule Selection Methodology Across Shiftwork Operations

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Costs of Management-Mandated Work Schedules

Surveys suggest that management-mandated work schedules can lead to:6

  • Increased absenteeism
  • Excessive overtime costs
  • Increased health problems and fatigue
  • Decreased morale
  • Increased turnover costs
  • Recruitment problems

51% of managers who mandated their work schedule reported “severe workforce fatigue,” compared to only 37% of managers in facilities where employees participated in work schedule design.6

Benefits of Employee-Chosen Work Schedules

Studies comparing methods of shift schedule selection have found that employee involvement in schedule redesign increases the benefits of schedule redesign considerably, as compared to management-mandated schedule changes.

These benefits include:7-14

1. Increased worker satisfaction with schedule design

2. Decreased unscheduled absences from illness

3. Maintained teamwork among employees as well as in-role and extra-role performance on individual levels

4. Improved physical and psychological vigor

5. Improved daytime sleep quality

6. Improved quality of employees’ home and social lives

7. Decreased turnover and number of vacant positions

8. Increased organizational commitment

9. Improved employee understanding of administrative issues involved in management of the facility

10. Reduced employee complaints

Shift Schedule Selection Tips

Employee involvement in the scheduling selection process can be critical in building strong employee-level support which in turn increases productivity and helps the company bottom line.

Each employee affected by the schedule should be equally involved in its design. Although each employee will bring his or her own preferences into the process, workforce surveys can determine the significant preferences of the facility as a whole.15

The concept of trying to “please all of the people all of the time” should be openly discussed at frequent intervals in the schedule change process, with the aim to reach a compromise that satisfies the group as a whole.

Download Our Free White Paper


Shift Scheduling & Employee Involvement

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About CIRCADIAN®

CIRCADIAN® is the global leader in providing 24/7 workforce performance and safety solutions for businesses that operate around the clock. Through a unique combination of consulting expertise, research and technology, software tools and informative publications, CIRCADIAN helps organizations in the 24-hour economy optimize employee performance and reduce the inherent risks and costs of their extended hours operations.


REFERENCES

1.Hauburger. Implementation of self-scheduling in the poison center. Vet. Hum. Toxicol. 39(3),175-7. 1997.

2.Knauth P.The design of shift systems. Ergonomics 36(1-3),15-28. 1993.

3.Knauth P. Changing schedules: shiftwork. Chronobiol. Int. 14(2),159-71. 1997.

4.Kogi K, Di Martino VG. Trends in participatory process of changing shiftwork arrangements. Work & Stress 9 (2/3), 298-304. 1995.

5.CIRCADIAN, Shiftwork Practices 2014

6.Circadian Technologies, Shiftwork Practices Survey 2002.

7. Ala-Mursula et al. Employee control over working times: associations with subjective health and sickness absences. J. Epidemiol. Community Health 56(4),272-8. 2002.

8.Beltzhoover M. Self-scheduling: an innovative approach. Nurs. Manage. 25(4),81-2. 1994.

9.Bradley, Martin. Continuous personnel scheduling algorithms: a literature review. J. Soc. Health Syst. 2(2),8-23. 1991.

10.Holtom et al. The relationship between work status congruence and work-related attitudes and behaviors. J. Appl. Psychol. 87(5),903-15. 2002.

11.Moore-Ede M. The Twenty-Four Hour Society: Understanding Human Limits in a World that Never Sleeps. 1994.

12.Smith PA et al. Change from slowly rotating 8-hour shifts to rapidly rotating 8-hour and 12-hour shifts using participative shift roster design. Scand. J. Work Environ. Health. 24(S3), 55-61. 1998.

13.Teahan. Implementation of a self-scheduling system: a solution to more than just schedules! J. Nurs. Manag. 6(6),361- 81. 998. Erratum in: J. Nurs. Manag. 7(1),65. 1999.

14.Sakai K et al. Educational and intervention strategies for improving a shift system: an experience in a disabled persons' facility. Ergonomics 36(1-3),219-25. 1993.

15.Gray et al. Preferences for specific work schedules: foundation for an expert-system scheduling program. Comput. Nurs. 11(3),115-21. 1993.

Thursday, 06 November 2014 22:36

Fatigued Workers: 5 Influencing Factors

Drowsy Driving and Fatigue
New research from the AAA Foundation suggests that driver fatigue is involved in 20% of all fatal accidents (AAA Foundation, 2014). This finding is based on a representative sample of 14,268 crashes that occurred between 2009 – 2013.

This statistic is dramatically higher than the 2.5% incidence rate that was reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2011. The actual incidence rate is challenging to pinpoint, due to discrepancies in data collection methods; however, fatalities in fatigue-related accidents has been estimated to be around 15-33% (Masten, Sutts, & Martel, 2006; Tefft & AAA Foundation, 2010).

According to a 2011 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of almost 75,000 adults, 38% reported inadvertently falling asleep during the day at least once in the past month and 4.7% reported nodding off or falling asleep while driving at least once in the past month.

These microsleeps, which generally last anywhere from 2 to 20 seconds, can result in devastating consequences for an employer in terms of loss of life, injuries, and financial implications.
Below we cover five major factors that can influence the likelihood of a fatigue-related accident taking place.

Five Influencing Factors

1. Time of Day

Night workers are 3x more likely to have a fatigue-related driving accident. Previous research has found he highest number of fatigue-related accidents occur between the hours of midnight and 6 AM, as shown in Figure 1. (AAA study, J. Stutts, UNC 1999).

It’s important to note that serious fatigue-related accidents can occur at any point in the day, at high noon on a sunny day.

 Figure 1: Fatigue Related Accidents vs Time of Day
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2. Hours Awake

After being awake for over 18 hours, an individual’s degree of cognitive impairment is equivalent to someone with a 0.08% blood alcohol concentration (BAC), which is double the legally intoxicated limit for commercial driving purposes. Impairment rises to an equivalent BAC of 0.10% after 24 hours of sustained wakefulness (Williamson & Feyer, 2000).

3.Underlying Sleep Disorders

Untreated sleep disorders, like obstructive sleep apnea, can significantly increase the likelihood of a fatigue-related accident.

Studies have shown that individuals with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) have a 40% increased rate of daytime sleepiness (Ulfberg, 1996) and 2x as many traffic accidents per mile as individuals without OSA (Horstmann, 2000).

CIRCADIAN’s databases (containing data from more than 10,000 shift workers) show that 11% of shift workers have OSA and 15% display key symptoms of OSA or other sleep disorders related to excessive sleepiness.

4.Rotating vs Fixed Shift Schedules

Workers with rotating shifts are twice as likely to have a fatigue-related driving accident as compared to workers on fixed shift schedules (AAA study, J. Stutts, UNC 1999).

Shift schedules that don’t allow for adequate rest periods between shifts can also increase the likelihood of a fatigue-related accident.

5.Adjustment to Shiftwork Lifestyle

Non-adapted shiftworkers report feeling drowsy and nodding off while working three times more often than adapted shift workers, and making mistakes and errors four times more often (CIRCADIAN, 2003).

Preventing Drowsy Driving

There are strategies that can be implemented to reduce the risk of drowsy driving among company drivers, such as:

  • Fatigue management software
  • Shift schedule optimization
  • Managing a shiftwork lifestyle training
  • Fatigue countermeasures
  • Sleep Disorder Screenings

Many companies have experienced dramatic benefits in terms of decreased accident rates, costs, and increased employee retention after implementing fatigue risk management solutions.

CASE STUDY

Nine months after implementing CIRCADIAN fatigue risk management solutions, Dupre’ Logistics had the following results:
  • 89% reduction in fatigue-related accidents
  • Over $1 million saved in accident-related costs
  • 50% reduction in driver turnover and absenteeism
Learn More About Dupre' Logistics Story

Download our FREE White Paper

Managing Driver Fatigue: A Risk-Informed, Performance-Based Approach

Managing Driver Fatigue
DOWNLOAD

About CIRCADIAN®

CIRCADIAN® is the global leader in providing 24/7 workforce performance and safety solutions for businesses that operate around the clock. Through a unique combination of consulting expertise, research and technology, software tools and informative publications, CIRCADIAN helps organizations in the 24-hour economy optimize employee performance and reduce the inherent risks and costs of their extended hours operations.

Communication breakdowns can easily occur in any 24/7 operations, which can threaten the safety of an operation.

Shift workers are especially susceptible to communication gaps, due to fatigue, shift changes, and long breaks that often come with 24/7 operations.

The risk of a serious accident or injury occurring is dramatically increased when careless mistakes made during one shift don’t surface until the next crew has taken over.

You can’t completely eliminate the inherent human performance limitations of shift work, but you can increase workforce communication to improve the safety of your operation, here are six tips on how to do so:

1. Log books

shift work log books
Shift log books aren’t new to 24/7 operations, and they remain an effective communication tool for workers and supervisors. Ensure that shiftworkers and supervisors record what happened on their shift, highlighting any abnormal or unusual activities. Require workers on the next shift to read the entries of the prior shift and record that they’ve read it.

2. Bulletin boards

shift work bulletin board Operations with little change in day-to-day processes often find that a centrally located bulletin board works well as a communications center. Make sure to only post need-to-know information to keep the postings relevant and effective.

3. E-mails and text messages

shift work email alert

Even as technology continues to advance, email is still one of the fastest and easiest forms of communication. Text message alerts can also be set up for emergency notifications.

4. Shift overlaps

shift workers on shift overlap
Many companies utilize shift overlaps of 15 to 30 minutes, which allow workers and supervisors on different shifts to directly communicate with one another. Shift overlaps present opportunities for brief, informal meetings to be occur between workers rarely communicate in-person with one another.


APPLICATION

At one chemical company, the shift “leadman” — an hourly employee — always stays over for 30 minutes of overtime. “It’s a cost we’re willing to pay because it works well,” the unit manager said. “It’s especially beneficial during the midnight shift change, when there may not be any managers working.


5. Meetings near shift changes

shift work meeting
Schedule meetings near a shift change to enable multiple crews to attend, or hold the same meeting two or three times to accommodate different schedules.

If possible, avoid requiring night workers to attend daytime meetings (when they normally sleep), or calling in workers on their days off for meetings.

6. Record Meetings

recording meetings for shift workers
Many conference systems today have built-in video/audio recording features that can be used to record daytime meetings for night shift workers to view when convenient. These recordings can be posted on the local computer network for easy viewing.

If video/audio recording of meetings isn’t feasible or ideal, circulate meeting notes via email to appropriate individuals.


APPLICATION

One metal processing company on fixed 8-hour shifts holds a monthly meeting at 2:30 p.m. for first and second shift workers (with the second shift coming in half an hour early). The meeting is videotaped for third shift employees to watch that night.


CONCLUSION

Communication failures can be a root cause of many preventable accidents and injuries. Improving workforce communication is the first step to increasing the overall safety and well-being of an operation.

DOWNLOAD FREE CIRCADIAN WHITE PAPER

Download our complementary CIRCADIAN® white paper, “Shiftwork Lifestyle Training: Employee and Employer Benefits

shift work lifestyle training

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About CIRCADIAN®

CIRCADIAN® is the global leader in providing 24/7 workforce performance and safety solutions for businesses that operate around the clock. Through a unique combination of consulting expertise, research and technology, software tools and informative publications, CIRCADIAN helps organizations in the 24-hour economy optimize employee performance and reduce the inherent risks and costs of their extended hours operations.

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The dangers of a sleep deprived workforce have been clearly demonstrated throughout research; however, the association between sleep quality and work injury risk has been an open question of interest among researchers.

Conflicting results have come from studies examining the variables that potentially modulate the association between sleep quality and workplace injuries. A recent meta-analysis of 27 observational studies found that sleep problems increase the risk of workplace injuries by 62 percent (Uehli et al., 2014).

Because of this, Swiss researchers looked to better understand the relationship between sleep problems and workplace injuries. Their findings, which were recently published in the Journal of Sleep Research, provide valuable insights into the relationship between sleep problems and the risk of work injuries.

We summarize and highlight the valuable, key points this research publication.

Goal of Study

According to the authors, "the aim of the study was to provide further evidence for the relationship between sleep quality and work injury and to identify factors that may modify this association.

Factors considered for the effect modification were gender, age, job risk, shift or night work, sleep duration, weekly working hours and co-morbid conditions."

Study Population

The case-control study included 180 cases and 551 controls, all of whom were recruited through the emergency department of the University Hospital in Basil, Switzerland.

To be included in the study, participants were required to meet the following criteria:

1. Age between 18 to 65 years

2. Hospital admission from a work injury that had occurred within the previous 48 hours

3. Moderate or severe work injury

4. Proficient in German

5. Adequate general mental condition to complete the questionnaire

Measurements

The well-validated and scientifically accepted Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) was used to retrospectively measure sleep quality in the four weeks prior to the work injury. Poor sleep quality was defined as a PSQI score greater than 5.

Work injuries were defined according to Swiss law, and excludes repetitive strain injuries and commuting accidents.

Variables that were measured included:

  • Sleep quality based on PSQI Score (>5 = poor sleep quality)
  • Objectively diagnosed sleep disorders (self-reported)
  • Reported sleep duration
  • Type of work injury (8 categories)
  • Sociodemographic factors (gender, age, highest education and occupational status)
  • Work-related questions (primary job, shift or night work, weekly working hours and perceived work stress)

Research Findings

There was a dose-response relationship between sleep problem severity and the odds of a workplace injury occurring.

Workers were 2x more likely to suffer a work injury if diagnosed with a sleep disorder.

Workers with a diagnosed sleep disorder AND suffering from poor sleep quality had a 3x greater risk of a work injury.

For each 1 unit increase in PSQI score, work injury risk increased by 20-30% among participants who were:

  • Males 
  • Older workers (>30 years) 
  • Participants with high risk jobs
  • Working 50 hours per week or more 
  • Daytime workers
  • Short sleepers (

Also, for each 1 unit increase in PSQI score, the likelihood of previous work injuries increased by 12%.

Research Implications 

These findings are relevant and valuable because:

  • An increasing number of older individuals in the workforce (Auer and Fortuny, 2000)
  • An increasing number of people working long hours (Jacobs and Gerson, 2004) 
  • A decreasing average sleep duration among the general population (Kronholm et al., 2008)

Want to learn more about fatigue and workplace safety? 

Interested in how worker fatigue is impacting your workers? Check out a few of our articles and white papers that highlight important fatigue & safety finding. 

Relevant articles from CIRCADIAN's Shifting Work Perspectives:

CIRCADIAN White Papers

Biocompatible Shift Scheduling                 The Myths & Realities of Fatigue
Biocompatible Shift Scheduling Myths & Realities of Fatigue White Paper

CIRCADIAN® FRMS and 24/7 Workforce Solutions

CIRCADIAN is the global leader in providing 24/7 workforce performance and safety solutions for businesses that operate around the clock.  Through a unique combination of consulting expertise, research, software tools and informative publications, CIRCADIAN helps organizations in 24/7 workforces optimize employee performance and reduce the inherent risks and costs of their extended hours operations.

As escalating health care costs continue to significantly impact on corporate profits, many companies are realizing that proactive measures must be taken to manage these costs.

According to CIRCADIAN studies on financial costs associated with 24/7 operations, U.S. businesses spend an additional $36.5 billion annually on health care to support 24/7 operations.1

In most cases, the distinct health risks faced by shiftworkers can be controlled, monitored and potentially reduced through a collaborative effort of both management and workers.

Knowing these crucial factors will facilitate the design of programs that improve employee health and enhance productivity while also reducing the costs, risks and liabilities of shiftwork operations.

1. Gender

Gender has been recognized as a factor affecting shiftwork tolerance, as several studies have found that men have a greater tolerance for shiftwork than women.2

Several studies have reported that female shiftworkers tend to have more sleep-related problems than male shift workers.4,5,6,7

In particular, one study found that female shiftworkers report difficulties falling asleep, problems with insomnia and using sleeping aids to fall asleep more frequently than male shift workers.2, 4

Sleep & Gender

Because female shiftworkers report needing more sleep than men, a large disparity exists between women and men in terms of perceived sleep needs and obtained sleep.

Not surprisingly, the major problem is related to the night shift. While male and female shiftworkers report getting similar amounts of sleep when working the morning and evening shifts, 48% of female workers get six hours of sleep or less when working the night shift, compared to 41% of men (Figure 1).3

Figure 1: Sleep duration for men and women across different shifts3

Shift Type and Hours of Sleep  

Gender differences in sleep quality also occur on the night shift. Twenty-eight percent (28%) of female shiftworkers report “poor” sleep when working the night shift, compared to just 20% of male shift workers.3

Fatigue at Work

Female shiftworkers report feeling tired while working more frequently than their male counterparts.3

However, male shiftworkers report nodding off and making mistakes while working more often than women.3

2. Age

Problems with work performance tend to increase with age, the critical age being 40-50 years, when based on measures of subjective sleepiness, performance tests, recovery after work and sleep time.2

However, in terms of the risk of developing shiftwork related health problems and shiftwork tolerance, research studies report more favorable outcomes for older workers.3

This may be due to the “healthy shift worker effect”, in which older workers represent the individuals who are healthier and have always been better at coping with shift work, even at a younger age. Previous experience with shiftwork clearly influences one’s tolerance to shift work.

Overall, adjustment to shift schedules seems to improve with age and shiftwork experience. The percentage of shiftworkers reporting that their health would improve with a different schedule decreases from 51% for the group 25-34 years old, to 27% for workers aged 55 or older.3

3. Circadian Profile

A person’s “circadian profile” tends to affect shiftwork adaptation. Three main characteristics have been extensively evaluated: morningness/eveningness, flexibility of sleeping habits, and one’s ability to overcome drowsiness.

Morningness/Eveningness

Morning types, or “larks,” are naturally more alert in the morning than in the evening, and their circadian rhythms (temperature, alertness, etc.) reach a maximum earlier in the day. The opposite is true for evening types, or “owls.”

Scientists have demonstrated that morningness/eveningness is linked to a specific set of genes.

Morningness is also associated with an increased rigidity in sleep patterns—morning types find it more difficult to sleep during the morning than evening types, which further decreases morning types’ adaptation to night work.3

Shiftworkers in 24/7 operations who prefer to get up late (after 9 a.m.)—evening types—report sleeping more hours and getting better sleep on the night shift.3

Surprisingly, evening types report more problems adapting to their work schedule.3

Flexibility of Sleep Habits

Flexibility of sleep habits indicates an individual’s self-perceived ability to sleep at different times during the day or night. The ability to overcome drowsiness defines their ability to sustain alertness.

Ability to Overcome Drowsiness

Researchers have found that the ability to overcome drowsiness is the best indicator of shiftwork tolerance after three years of shiftwork.3

Both flexibility of sleep habits and ability to overcome drowsiness have been found to be related to a better long term shiftwork tolerance.3

4. Psychological and Behavioral Factors

Personality

Two psychological factors, extroversion/introversion and neuroticism, have been widely studied in relation to shiftwork tolerance. Several studies have found that extroverts adjust somewhat faster than introverts to shift work.2

However, neither extroversion nor neuroticism have any value in predicting adaptation to shift work.2

Locus of Control

Locus of control (that is, the internal versus external attribution of control with regard to managing problems) has recently been introduced as a factor affecting shiftwork tolerance – especially in regards to one’s locus of control in terms of shift work.

Internal locus of control (when the individual feels that rewarding experiences are contingent upon their own behavior and attributes) has been associated with better shiftworktolerance.3

Commitment to Shiftwork

Individual strategies for coping with shiftwork have been evaluated and seem to be a promising factor in predicting shiftwork tolerance.

Commitment to shiftwork means that workers are willing to schedule their lives around working non-traditional hours. Correct sleeping habits, appropriate exposure to bright light, good nutritional practices, and physical exercise may all have a crucial effect on shiftwork tolerance.

In fact, “commitment to shift work” has been cited by several authors as the most important individual factor affecting shiftworktolerance.3

5. Social Factors

Family and social factors can also affect one’s adaptation to shift work. It’s evident that the support spousal or partner support plays a pivotal role in the one’s adaptation to shift work.

Not surprisingly, the presence of children increases domestic responsibilities and may result in more difficulties adapting to a shiftwork lifestyle.

Shiftworkers with good family lives report better health status.3 This finding could be related to an absence of family conflict—a recognized source of stress—for these workers.

Long commutes interfere with everyday life, restricting free time and reducing sleep. Workers with commutes that are 45 minutes or longer have been found to report higher stress levels, more health problems, and higher absenteeism rates than workers with commutes of 20 minutes or less.3

Shiftwork Lifestyle Training

Most shiftworkers don’t know how to adjust their lifestyle to minimize the negative effects of working around the clock. As a result, workers’ job performance, safety, health, and family life suffers as company profits and productivity fall.

Training workers on how to manage a shiftwork lifestyle is a powerful tool for improving your employees’ physical and psychological well-being, thereby increasing morale and effectiveness.

In fact, research reports have found that turnover and absenteeism rates are higher in facilities that do not provide some type of shiftwork lifestyle training.

Download Our Free White Paper

Download our complementary CIRCADIAN® white paper, “Shiftwork Lifestyle Training: Employee and Employer Benefits”

Managing a Shiftwork Lifestyle Training alt
About CIRCADIAN®

CIRCADIAN® is the global leader in providing 24/7 workforce performance and safety solutions for businesses that operate around the clock.  Through a unique combination of consulting expertise, research and technology, software tools and informative publications, CIRCADIAN helps organizations in the 24-hour economy optimize employee performance and reduce the inherent risks and costs of their extended hours operations.

REFERENCES

1.CIRCADIAN. (2003). Financial Opportunities in Extended Hours Operations: Managing Costs, Risks, and Liabilities. Costs based on 2014 inflation rates.

2.Saksvik, I. B., Bjorvatn, B., Hetland, H., Sandal, G. M., & Pallesen, S. (2011). Individual differences in tolerance to shift work–a systematic review. Sleep medicine reviews, 15(4), 221-235.

3.CIRCADIAN. (2003). Health in Extended Hours Operations: Understanding the Challenges, Implementing the Solutions.

4.Marquie, J. C., & Foret, J. (1999). Sleep, age, and shiftwork experience. Journal of sleep research, 8(4), 297-304.

5.Rotenberg, L., Portela, L. F., Marcondes, W. B., Moreno, C., & Nascimento, C. P. (2000). Gender and diurnal sleep in night workers at a Brazilian industry. Shiftwork in the 21 st Century. Challenges for Research and Practice, 305-309.

6.Admi, H., Tzischinsky, O., Epstein, R., Herer, P., & Lavie, P. (2007). Shift work in nursing: is it really a risk factor for nurses' health and patients' safety?. Nursing economic$, 26(4), 250-257.

7.Rouch, I., Wild, P., Ansiau, D., & Marquié, J. C. (2005). Shiftwork experience, age and cognitive performance. Ergonomics, 48(10), 1282-1293.

Why should YOU be concerned about absenteeism?


On average, a shift worker in the U.S. costs a company roughly $2,660 in excess absenteeism costs each year.

Having trouble viewing our infographic? View it here: https://magic.piktochart.com/output/2598161-absenteeism

Tuesday, 07 October 2014 14:45

9 Ways to be a Better Shiftwork Manager

talking to co worker-no corbisBeing the intermediary between the demands of corporate management and the needs of shiftworkers is a challenging position, especially in 24/7 operations.

We’ve found that the following 9 tips have been the most helpful to 24/7 operations managers throughout CIRCADIAN’s 30 years of consulting non-stop workforces.

These 9 tips will help you to bridge communication between corporate managers and shiftworkers, while still attending to the needs of both parties.

TIP 1: Educate corporate managers on the special challenges, risks and liabilities of shiftwork operations

It’s hard for a manager from corporate headquarters to stay connected with the challenges of 24/7 shiftwork operations. Yet, corporate managers have the authority to make decisions that can inadvertently jeopardize the alertness, safety and performance of their shiftworkers.

Many of these decisions can undermine the effectiveness of a 24-hour operation by failing to account for the limitations of human functioning.

Decisions made on topics such as: equipment purchases, engineering design specs, energy-saving policies, productivity, staffing levels and service objectives, can be detrimental to the company as a whole if the biological variables that greatly influence these factors aren’t taken into consideration.

Facilities managers are in the unique position to educate corporate headquarters about the realities, challenges and the delicate nature of 24/7 operations.

TIP 2: Designate and certify a specific “shiftwork manager” at each site to optimize worker alertness

Ensuring optimal levels of alertness among workers requires continuous attention to the multiple factors that influence fatigue and alertness. One effective way to boost alertness is to designate one individual as “shiftwork manager” in each 24-hour facility.

The best candidate for a shiftwork manager position is an individual who has experience with operations and working night shifts.

The responsibilities of the shiftwork manager include:

  • Managing shiftwork and related human factors information
  • Serving as the resident shiftwork expert at the 24/7 operations facility
  • Keeping up to date with technical information on fatigue management technology
  • Conducting periodic fatigue risk assessments
  • Coordinating the training of workers on managing sleep, nutrition, and other aspects of a shiftwork lifestyle
  • Providing input into decisions regarding changes to practices that impact the nature of the shiftworker’s job (e.g. work schedules, new equipment, man-machine interfaces, etc.).

The designated “Shiftwork Manager” will require training to appropriately equip him or her for the position.

Education and training programs should comprehensively cover the established best practices of fatigue mitigation in shiftwork operations. These programs should also provide a detailed introduction into fatigue management technology, circadian sleep and alertness physiology, and shiftwork fatigue risk.

TIP 3: Recognize the value of shiftwork experience when hiring managers and supervisors

Often times, problematic situations in 24-hour operations occur when decisions directly impacting shiftworkers are made by managers who have little/no personal experience with working a night shift.

Managers without shiftwork experience have a tendency to treat shiftworkers like regular daytime employees, failing to account for the circadian factors associated with night work. This increases the chances that an operation will face issues involving safety, staffing levels, overtime, scheduling and communication, and potentially other issues.

When possible, hire applicants with direct experience in shiftwork operations, night shifts and handling employee fatigue. If you can’t hire someone with this expertise, then you will need to provide education and training on these topics.

TIP 4: Expose new managers to a shiftwork lifestyle for several shift cycles

The best way to raise managers’ awareness of the challenges of particular shiftwork operation is to have new managers experience rotating shiftwork or a fixed night shift for a sustained period of time.

By experiencing night work or shift rotations, they can understand the fatiguing effects of shiftwork, the problems that arise with daytime sleep, and the realities of working the night shift.

It’s important that managers are removed from their disciplinary roles during this process. In order to observe what takes place behind the scenes — the unofficial napping, the lowering of lights and the various ways that shiftworkers cover for each other to make the job manageable – managers need to be viewed as non-threatening to the shiftwork crews.

While managers can participate in this experience at any time, it’s ideal to have managers complete this activity when first training for their managerial position.

TIP 5: Develop your expertise in shiftwork management

Managers are responsible for a 24/7 operation where microsleeps and inattentive behaviors can be commonplace. It’s important to develop an understanding of human limitations and how to optimize work performance and safety around these limitations.

In addition to specialized training, managers of 9-5 businesses often have to have a general knowledge base on other subjects, but human sleep-wake physiology is rarely one of them!

Reading blogs like Shifting Work Perspectives, along with attending seminars and courses on shiftwork and fatigue management, are great ways to develop your own expertise on this important subject.

TIP 6: Spend some time with the night crew

When possible, try to find time for projects that give you the reason to work with night crews. This will reacquaint you with the challenges of 24/7 operations, and give you a chance to experience the working conditions that your shiftworkers face.

Of course, managerial presence will change the behavior of workers – however, completing a night shift periodically will provide management with useful information about the shiftworker’s challenges while simultaneously building relationships with workers that you may not frequently see.

Demonstrating concern for the challenges associated with shiftwork helps to build trust, loyalty and two-way communication between shiftworkers and managers.

TIP 7: Ensure human design specs are incorporated into company planning

During business planning, consideration must be taken for the unique nature of 24/7 operations.

This often requires a cultural change within an organization about worker fatigue and the biological limitations of humans. Cultural changes won’t be accomplished overnight – though it’s well worth the necessary effort to obtain them.

Changing an organization’s culture requires a systematic effort to bring new patterns of thinking into an organization.

Bringing in outside expertise can be quite helpful in establishing credibility behind the ideas being presented. This could include an expert in the application of human alertness technology to 24/7 operations to speak at company meetings and safety conferences.

You can send relevant articles to fellow managers and senior executives to encourage them to rethink some of their old ways of doing business. We suggest a few of the following articles:

TIP 8: Benchmark against the best shiftwork operations

In order to develop a level of excellence it is very helpful to understand how your operation compares with other non-stop environments.

It is helpful to find someone with extensive experience in shiftwork operations both inside and outside of your company, and to obtain the appropriate normative databases to help benchmark your operation against other comparable sites.

By doing so, you can set goals for improvement of your shiftwork operations that are attainable, and thus increase the overall excellence of your operation.

TIP 9: Avoid critical management decisions at 3 A.M.

Some of the most disastrous management decisions in history have been made late at night or early in the morning.

Notable examples include: the decision to switch off the safety systems at Chernobyl to accelerate the testing process; the decision to launch the Space Shuttle Challenger in record-low, gasket-cracking temperatures, and the decision to shoot down an unidentified aircraft over Soviet airspace, which turned out to be Korean Airlines Flight 007.

These disasters were each caused by fatigued managers who made decisions that seemed logical at the time.

The lesson is: when possible, avoid making decisions when you are fatigued, especially in the middle of the night. The old saying “sleep on it” is frequently the most sensible decision to make when fatigued. Trying to push through to a decision, no matter how urgent, often creates consequences far graver than the costs of delaying action.

The Take-Away

Being a better manager means being the voice for both the needs of workers and the logic of corporate management. By understanding the challenges that workers face on a daily basis, corporate management can make informed decisions that effectively optimize the workforce.

This is a long term campaign — not just a single task — that will ultimately result in a substantial pay off, not only in terms of the increased profitability and competitiveness of the company, but also in terms of the improved health, safety and lifestyle of the key employees on whom you rely to give their best 24 hours a day.

CIRCADIAN®

Of course, learning the details behind the circadian rhythms of sleep and alertness is no easy task. That’s why CIRCADIAN consulting experts provide specialized training for both managers and workers to optimize 24/7 operations in a variety of ways. Interested in learning more about CIRCADIAN expertise and services?

CIRCADIAN 24/7 Workforce Solutions


Tuesday, 02 September 2014 18:43

Understanding Human Operating Procedures

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“People don’t release smoke, grind gears, or have pieces fall off; but their equivalents – fatigue, error, injury, and ill heal
t
h do result in failure and breakdown."

Martin Moore-Ede, M.D., Ph.D., The Twenty-Four-Hour Society

While our technologies and operations have dramatically changed since the 1993 publication of The Twenty-Four-Hour Society, this statement remains as true as ever.

Why? Because like machinery, we aren’t designed to work outside of our limitations.

Below is an excerpt from The Twenty-Four-Hour Society, written by Martin Moore-Ede, M.D., Ph.D., which details the dangers of operations that are disproportionally machine-centric instead of people-centric.

The discrepancies between these mindsets are foundational to the safety and health of workers and the overall well-being of the operations.

The Twenty-Four-Hour Society: Design Specs of the Human Machine

SOME YEARS AGO I had an opportunity to work with some of the engineers who were designing the crew cabin of the space shuttle. Having been involved with NASA biomedical experiments since the Apollo moon mission days, I was invited to serve on a NASA expert panel advising on human factors considerations for the shuttle. For a young scientist, to work with the best in American engineering – the men and women who had put human beings on the moon – was a thrilling opportunity.

As we looked at several possible crew cabin configurations, my biomedical colleagues and I strongly urged NASA to abandon one scheme, which we felt almost guaranteed that the crew’s blood circulation would be drawn out into the legs during landing, causing unconsciousness. Despite our protests, we were eventually told that the engineers had selected this design.

A year later I learned that the design had subsequently been abandoned in favor of one of the others we preferred. When I expressed delight that the biomedical concerns had finally been acknowledged, I was told the reason for abandoning the previously selected design: undue stress from G-forces would damage the wings. We got the design we wanted, but we had done nothing to alter the mind-set of the engineers!

In most cases of discrimination one group discriminates against another, but here we have a case of discrimination against ourselves.

We treat our man-made machinery better than the bodies of the people who operate it. Machines are protected by operational manuals, warning labels, and training courses. Humans arrive in this world with no such protection. We tend to assume that people are adaptable, but that is true only within narrow limits.

A manager of an industrial plant or a pilot of a plane or a NASA space shuttle, who operated a complex piece of machinery outside of the specifications for which it was designed would be deemed reckless and irresponsible.

Operating a machine out its design specs, at too many rpm, too high a G-force, too high a temperature, or too low a pressure, creates unnecessary risks of breakdown or failure. Yet the most highly sophisticated pieces of machinery in that industrial plant, airplane, or space shuttle are not the complex electronic man-made systems, but rather the bodies and brains of the human operators or pilots.

People believe that machinery is inherently unreliable and must constantly be watched. Yet, with the advances in modern engineering, it is the human operator, more than the machine itself, that needs watching.

We hire people to watch the equipment in our factories, nuclear power plants, and airplanes, but we don’t have the equipment watch the person to ensure that he or she is awake and alert. We have the weak link of the chain watching the strong link, but not the strong watching the weak – the fallible watching the infallible, rather than the infallible watching the fallible.

Because we have been machine-centered in our thinking – focused on the optimization of technology and equipment – rather than human-centered – focused on the optimization of human alertness and performance, the reliability of machines has grown enormously in the twentieth century, while human reliability has tended to decline.

Human error has become the problem of our age because of the trade-offs and compromises, made to ensure the technological achievements of the modern world, have not taken into account the design specs of the human body. Creating and installing a human-centered technology to redress the balance will be one of the most important challenges of the twenty-first century.

The shocking truth is that we know far less about the design specs of the human being than we know about the hardware and software he or she operates. And we tend to abuse those design specs, particularly in around-the-clock operations, which are the core of our twenty-four-hour society.

People don’t release smoke, grind gears, or have pieces fall off; but their equivalents – fatigue, error, injury, and ill health – do result in failure and breakdown.

Source: Martin Moore-Ede, The Twenty-Four Hour Society: Understanding Human Limits in a World That Never Stops, Addison-Wesley 1993.

About CIRCADIAN

CIRCADIAN® is the global leader in providing 24/7 workforce performance and safety solutions for businesses that operate around the clock.  Through a unique combination of consulting expertise, research and technology, software tools and informative publications, CIRCADIAN helps organizations with traditional and/or extended operating hours optimize employee performance and reduce the inherent risks and costs of sleep deprivation and fatigue.
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