There are many occupations that require staff 24/7. Healthcare, construction, law enforcement, long-haul truckers, and maintenance jobs. All of these occupations could require that you work the “graveyard shift” at some point. Working the graveyard shift, or overnight, can be strenuous. In some cases, it can even be dangerous.
There are around 15 million Americans that work overnight or work swing shifts. Unfortunately, that means that there are 15 million people who are exposed to the challenges and safety risks of working these strenuous hours. This is particularly alarming given that many of the occupations requiring overnight hours involve the health and safety of others.
Challenges and Safety Risks
Working long, extended hours, or overnight can take a toll on your body and mind. Here are some of the challenges and safety risks that you could experience:
- Fatigue – Around 7 percent of work-related fatal auto accidents involved fatigue, drowsiness, or falling asleep at the wheel.
- Sleep disorders – For example, there are around 861,000 police officers in the U.S. Of those, around 40 percent work 12 hours or more per shift and report insomnia and excessive sleepiness.
- Physical stress – Working strenuous hours can contribute to heart disease and cancer.
- Mental stress
- Decreased alertness (contributes to many workplace injuries)
- Decreased performance (affects overall job satisfaction and efficiency)
- Prolonged exposure to health hazards, such as:
o Toxic substances
Because of these hazards, it is important that workers on long or overnight shifts prepare accordingly. To do this, get plenty of sleep, shift your body’s circadian clock, and use caffeine and healthy food to give you energy.