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Does working the night shift cause more workplace injuries?

On Behalf of | Mar 19, 2018 | Workers' Compensation

Humans — and all animals — have internal clocks that regular behavior. Known as circadian rhythm, it’s an often-studied part of our biology that affects how the human body responds to conditions. Behavior is different based on conditions like light and temperature.

Light and temperature affect our behavior, but they remain constant in most workplaces: under the hum of artificial light and reliable thermostats. According to some researchers, that goes against human nature and puts workers in an unnatural environment. When we’re off-balance, we’re also erratic.

The lab rat response

As explained by an article in Popular Science titled “Your schedule could be killing you,” laboratory mice respond significantly different based on their sleep schedules. In studies, scientists use artificial lights to wake mice at different hours, interrupting their natural schedule. Behavior, health and hunger are affected.

More stress usually means more accidents

While circadian rhythm is fascinating, experts are still studying its effects on humans. Knowing what we do about sleep patterns and cognitive skills, though, it’s safe to conclude that working the overnight shift is often harder on the body than working the same amount of hours during the day.

In the same article, it specifically addresses the long and irregular shifts worked in hospital emergency rooms and fire stations. While somebody has to do the job, and the current rotating schedules are meant to split the burden among co-workers, working irregular shifts creates extra stress. A worker who is overly tired is more likely to make poor decisions or be clumsy, causing injury to themselves or their coworkers.

Dealing with workplace injuries

There are hazards in every job, whether that means long shifts at the fire hall, walking passed unleashed pets on a mail route or packaging items on an assembly line. Employees do their best to stay safe at work and to stay healthy, but sometimes mistakes happen.

Anyone who is injured on the job is eligible for workers’ compensation. It’s a program funded by employers like an insurance policy with the intention of helping workers cover work-related medical expenses and recovery costs. There are many benefits available beyond basic medical expenses. Depending on the situation, compensation may include rehabilitation costs, disability and more. Workers’ compensation law has many nuances, so anyone who would like to understand the full coverage available to them should consult with an experienced attorney to discuss their case.

Every work place has unique conditions that put employees at risk. Researchers are learning more about circadian rhythm in order to improve safety in the future. Right now, it’s important to know that if something does go wrong, workers’ compensation is available to help relieve the burden.

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