Q: Are there OSHA regulations regarding night shift work?
Study after study has proven the dangers of sleep-deprived employees. More likely to become injured, cause accidents, or miss work, sleepless employees can cost employers big bucks.
It would stand to reason, then, that employees working rotating shifts, especially night shifts, would be among the most protected by workplace safety regulations. Night shifts or rotating shifts can often disturb an employee’s sleep cycle and lead to serious health problems, so one would think that there would be significant guidelines in place to regulate night shift or rotating shift work.
OSHA Weighs In
While the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not specifically target night shift work, it has laid out guidelines for extended or unusual shift hours, which would include night shift work. Similar to the regulations governing a standard shift, these rules discuss mandatory breaks and safety, and also add emphasis to the needs of employees who work at all hours. Specifically, OSHA addresses:
- Monitoring. Employees on unusual shifts require careful monitoring to ensure that they are not developing serious signs of fatigue, such as difficulty concentrating or depression. Tired employees can quickly become a danger to themselves and others, and OSHA recommends careful evaluation and rest options for fatigued workers.
- Staffing. Employees working night shifts or rotating shifts require regular and frequent breaks to stay alert and focused, and adequate staffing levels can help ensure that employees are able to take breaks as needed to ward off fatigue.
Be Your Own Advocate
If you are employed in a career that demands unusual or rotating shifts, be aware of your rights as an employee. Your health and safety should not only be your top priority, but also your employer’s top priority—keep an eye on your work conditions, and speak up if you find yourself growing fatigued.