Working a night shift can be challenging especially if you are not used to it; it goes against your natural body clock and this can have some serious implications on the way you manage health and safety.
What defines a night shift?
A shift will count as a night shift if a portion of it occurs between the hours of 11 pm and 6 am. Because of this other regulations apply to them that do not apply to other workers. Night workers, for example, are entitled to regular free health assessments before they begin their shift. If the night work involves the use of heavy machinery the 8 hour limit of the working time directive must be adhered to.
The impact of working night shifts on your health
One of the main issues many night shift workers struggles with it getting quality sleep. As light exposure suppresses the secretion of melatonin, night workers often struggle to get enough sleep and build up a bigger sleep debt over time. This can have a serious impact on the workers mental health, increasing the risk of depression.
Performance in the workplace can also be seriously affected. If a night shift worker is sleep deprived it can lead to a drop in focus and energy. This can affect both productivity and health and safety in the workplace.
Additional night work regulations
Despite some misconceptions around night work, all night workers are entitled to minimum wage. They are not under a separate minimum wage bracket. Additionally, staff may also be classed at night workers if there is a trade union agreement stating so.
Sleep in work is also difficult to determine. If a worker is expected to work for the majority of a shift then they will be entitled to the minimum wage for all of it. However, if they expect to sleep for the majority of the shift they will only be entitled to minimum wage for the work they perform whilst active.
Age also has implications for night shift workers. Staff aged 16 or 17 cannot work between 12 AM and 4 AM. Normally they will not be allowed to work between 10pm or 6am, however industry exemptions include:
- Catering and hotels
- Post or newspaper delivery
- Cultural, sporting or artistic and advertising activities.
Steps for employers to take to reduce the associated risks of night work
Keeping your employees healthy will help them minimise the risks of night shifts. Regular health assessments and working time schedules that comply with the regulations will help you establish good health and safety practices in night work.
If you are in charge of the health and safety practices at your workplace having good foundational training in HSE best practice will help you manage those working night shifts.