How EHS managers can handle the dangers of night shift work

Sercan Esen
Sercan Esen
-Feb 08, 2022

As many EHS managers know, night workers in every occupation are inherently more susceptible to illness and poor health. In fact, the cumulative cost of employee exhaustion is estimated at nearly $500 billion on a yearly basis. Undersleeping has been clinically connected with chronic illness and even serious maladies such as cancer. But in the manufacturing space, the consequences of sleep-deprived workers can often be immediately concerning, given the dangerous nature of the workplace.

Despite the fact that only a small fraction of workers come to work at night, a disproportionate share of injured workers were hurt while they worked night shift jobs. In fact, studies by the NCBI indicated that the chance of a night-shift worker getting injured was up to 270% higher than his or her daytime counterparts. Why is this the case? The simple answer is that most night-shift workers sleep substantially less than their daytime counterparts.

While workers theoretically have a full day to sleep, a large portion of night-shift workers works other day-time jobs, because their schedule allows them to do so. Even for those that don’t, psychologists have discovered that our body runs on an internal clock governed by the movements of the sun, making it much more difficult to get restful sleep during the day. By the same principle, even a well-rested person functions substantially more poorly at night doing the same tasks. Even a lapse in focus for mere seconds can be fatal for workers operating types of machinery like forklifts, hydraulic presses, and grinding wheels.

But adding to the problem of fatigued workers night-shift laborers is a general lack of supervision during night shifts. Many factory managers have mentioned that their day shifts are much more likely to be staffed with EHS supervisors to ensure workers comply with safety regulations. Why? The night shift is often staffed by a much smaller group than the day shifts, with few workers taking on the roles of many. Furthermore, many workers are working jobs alone such as maintenance.

As a result, it makes less sense to pay for expensive EHS managers. Even when EHS managers do get hired, they have a harder time managing night shift work because a smaller labor force is being spread over a very large area, and the night shift EHS supervisor can be plagued by fatigue too. So how can these problems be effectively addressed? Shift managers must pay careful attention to their workers and make sure they are not over-fatigued. Furthermore, higher, rather than lower portions of the EHS budgets should be dedicated towards the night shift, as a disproportionately high amount of worker, injury happens at night.    

Intenseye can help in addressing many of these issues since cameras don’t suffer from sleep deprivation. The first step to solving any problem is knowing that it’s there, and intenseye is capable of graphically showing you how many more violations are occurring during night shifts, while simultaneously addressing the issues with video recognition.

Furthermore, intenseye can directly reduce worker fatigue by analyzing things like body position in order to determine if workers are repeatedly executing manual tasks in a way that tires them out over time. Holistically, the system offers immediate alerts as soon as violations happen, in order to prevent violations from turning into accidents.

Ultimately, it’s important for managers to plan for the potential implications of worker injury, especially on the night shift.

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