1 min read

Make that roster work: 8 steps for shift work safety

By Andrew Hobbs

It has become so common in small to medium-sized businesses that in Westpac Bank’s recent marketing campaign, the big bank stated that many businesses simply wouldn’t operate without some shift work involved.

But research shows that regularly working at night can disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm and lead to fatigue, headaches stress and anxiety.

Shift workers are also more likely to experience depression, weight gain, stomach ulcers and other gastrointestinal problems, as well as having an increased risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.

Yet there are ways to minimise the impact of fatigue on your shift workers – through building a fatigue management plan and better managing the staff roster.

8 ways to improve that roster and help your employees to stay fit for work for longer

  • ensure the work cycle includes no more than six consecutive 8-hour shifts or four consecutive 12-hour shifts;
  • ensure shifts are kept shorter than this for work that is high-risk or exhausting;
  • ensure that workers rarely work more than 7 days in a row;
  • keep night shifts to a minimum, and alternate night shifts with day shifts;
  • try to keep workers’ shift cycles consistent – as constant adjustments to shift patterns can worsen sleep issues;
  • provide workers with sufficient breaks during their shifts, especially if they are working long shifts or undertaking high-risk work;
  • ensure that workers are given sufficient time to rest and recuperate between shifts – one full shift length should be the absolute minimum; and
  • provide workers with reasonable notice of roster changes. The more notice you give, the greater your chance of reducing the risk of fatigue.
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