In 2013, the Canadian Institute for Work and Health found that men and women who worked night shifts are more likely to experience injuries than those who worked other shifts. A quick glance at a study like that would elicit an expectation that those who work later would be more likely to be injured, but why? What is it about working later shifts that put workers in a lot of industries at risk for injury?
The Industries That Are Generally Affected
The most common industries that saw increases in injuries at night were EMTs, police, fire fighters, construction, and hospital workers. While there does not appear to be any common ground between these industries, there are certain aspects of worker safety these industries share that are compromised when the work takes place at night.
The most obvious problem with night work is the visibility. Every industry that works at night equips its workers with tools to see better at night, but that lack of total natural light offers a significant lack of important background light that any worker needs to be safe. There is a big difference to having a worker’s perimeter lit up by natural light at all times and trying to stay safe with the limited abilities of a flashlight.
Bad weather can help to make night work even more dangerous. Not only does bad weather make the conditions slippery and dangerous, but it also makes visibility even worse. Significant snow or rain during a night shift where the work is done outdoors can add to the potential for worker injury.
Lack Of Help
With most night shifts, the personnel at work is lower in number than other shifts. Most industries put the least amount of workers on a night shift as possible to keep costs down. But when the staff numbers are low, there are less workers to look out for each other and less workers to help keep conditions safe. When the staff levels are lower, that also means that there are a lower number of safety-related personnel working to help monitor the work site.
There is a spotlight that goes on the personnel issue when workers call in sick for the night. A shift that is already low on the required personnel can significantly increase the danger for night work when workers call off unexpectedly for the night.
Science has shown that working a night shift in a diverse list of industries can increase the chances for worker injuries. Considering that many of the factors that increase danger are either related to the weather or darkness, there is only so much companies can do to make workers safe. But with cooperation between workers and employers, there are steps that can be taken to keep the night shift safe while they are doing their job.