Special Topics in Safety Management

Tips To Give Your Shift Workers a More Normal Life

Shift work doesn’t have to make workers sick. Here are some tips to make their lives easier, suggested by shift workers themselves, and a program to improve the health of all your employees.

As yesterday’s Advisor noted, some 20 percent of employees work the night shift. While that makes it possible for organizations to run at all hours, it can be awfully hard on the workers themselves.

“The human body was made to sleep at night and stay awake in the daytime,” explains safety expert Barbara Manning Grimm. Not doing so leads to difficulties from digestive upset to a lack of alertness that can be disastrous around machinery or behind the wheel of a car or truck.


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We previously outlined steps employers can take to make shift work easier, but what can workers do for themselves? We know, courtesy of a survey of night workers cited in the BLR publication, OSHA Required Training for Supervisors. Here’s what these denizens of the night found to be helpful in normalizing their upside-down lives:

    Cook several large dishes at the beginning of the week. Then simply reheat as needed.

    Send a copy of your schedule to family and friends, so you can plan time together.

    Have breakfast or lunch with loved ones (even if they are your lunch and dinner!).

    Because your loved ones are asleep while you work, use e-mails or notes to keep in touch.

    Don’t bother with little chores during the workweek. Save them for your days off.

    Focus on what you can get out of shift work, including the extra pay and the sunny days you can spend with the kids.

    Talk with co-workers about schedules. If another worker prefers the shift you’re on, ask your boss to trade.

    Let your family know how important it is to get sleep during the day. Rest in a darkened room with the phone turned off. And post a note on the door to wake you at a set time. (Add that you should be wakened immediately in an emergency.)

    Eat nutritiously. Shift work stresses the body enough. And sweet snacks can make you drowsy on the job.

Others suggest following a regular wellness regimen. If your employer has a wellness program, join it and request that activities be available to your shift. That last suggestion, having a wellness program, will, of course, benefit all your employees, whatever their schedule.

How to Start a Wellness Program

Studies suggest that having a wellness program will benefit you, too, through lower absenteeism and reduced health insurance rates. The return on investment (ROI), studies say, can be 300 percent or more of what you spend to create it.

To aid companies in developing such programs, BLR’s editors have produced a new resource guide, titled Workplace Wellness: Healthy Employees, Healthy Families, Healthy ROI. It’s been a best seller since its introduction, and since illness prevention is also a safety issue, we’d like to bring it to your attention.

Here’s the 7-step process the guide lays out for getting your program rolling:

1. Find a Wellness Champion Among Senior Management. Likely not difficult, once you explain the human and economic payback and the fact that health insurance costs are jumping 8 percent to 12 percent yearly. The program supplies a template that lays out for senior management why wellness has become the hot trend.

2. Assess the Current Wellness Level at Your Workplace. We supply the surveys and checklist forms that you need.

3. Create a Customized Operating Plan. The guide helps you set up a mission statement, goals, timelines, and assignment of responsibilities.

4. Keep Your Program Legal. You’ll need to consider how your plan interfaces with HIPAA, ADA, and other laws. The book explains how your organization can stay in compliance.

5. Launch Your Program. The book suggests many approaches to make wellness fun, including how to run a health fair.


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6. Communicate, Educate, Motivate, Empower. Build wellness into your company’s operations and culture. One example we give: A regular wellness announcement time at department meetings.

7. Measure, Assess, Adjust. There are numerous metrics to show how well your program is working. The book provides a full set of assessment tools.

If you’d like to examine Workplace Wellness: Healthy Employees, Healthy Families, Healthy ROI on a no-cost, no-obligation basis for 30 days, we’ve arranged for you to do so. Click here and we’ll be happy to set it up.