Thursday, 28 October 2010

Combating Sleep Deprivation in Shiftworkers

by WFC Resources

Jobs Vacancy, Employment, Job Vacancies

This tip comes to us from an article in a periodical called Occupational Hazards. Writer Josh Cable interviewed Bill Sirois, senior VP of Circadian Technologies, about how to make sure your shiftworkers aren't sleep-deprived.

We weren't built for shiftwork, says the article, so it's up to employers to manage the risk factors that come with the territory. Educating your shiftworkers in the following areas can help you make a positive impact on their safety, health and productivity.

Caffeine management: Caffeine is a powerful stimulant, but drinking too much coffee or drinking it late in a shift can interfere with sleep. Encourage shiftworkers to use coffee in moderation and to drink coffee at the front end of the shift; they should switch to decaf or juice for the rest of the shift.

Diet: Encourage shiftworkers to "graze" through their shifts on low-fat, low-sugar snacks such as low-fat crackers, popcorn, pretzels, tossed salads and celery and carrot sticks with low-calorie dip.

Exercise: A 20-minute aerobic workout can delay by 3 to 4 hours the energy/alertness drop that workers experience during their circadian lowpoint and can help workers sleep when their shift is over, according to Sirois. That's why Entergy Corp.'s Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, Mass., has installed aerobic equipment in its facility. "Guys are encouraged to use it if they're feeling a bit down," says Paul Coffey, a project manager at the facility. The facility also has incorporated surveillance walks into the schedules of many of its 125 shiftworkers.

Naps: A 20-minute power nap has been scientifically proven to provide a 4-hour boost in alertness and productivity, according to Sirois. Develop a policy that allows overly tired workers to take short naps – with supervisor permission – as needed or during breaks.

Scheduling: A growing number of employers are moving away from 8-hour schedules to 12-hour schedules; advocates include author Glenn McBride, who contends that 12-hour schedules, if managed properly, provide more energy, recovery time and quality time with family. Sirois recommends starting morning shifts around 7:30 or 8 a.m. to accommodate the circadian rhythms of the most workers. For rotating schedules, clockwise rotations from days to evenings to nights are user-friendly; counterclock-wise rotations "are extremely stressful," Sirois says. Any restructuring of schedules only will succeed with employee involvement and input.

Training: Incorporate education on the basics of sleep, circadian rhythms and other shiftwork issues and strategies into training. Bayer Material Sciences of Baytown, Texas, hired Circadian Technologies to provide train-the- trainer classes for six of its employees, and now the facility provides mandatory training for its newly hired shiftworkers and newly promoted shift supervisors as well as voluntary training for all employees, explains site HR Director Shirlyn Cummings. Training covers sleep management, nutrition, family relationships and other tips and guidelines for managing a shiftwork lifestyle. Family members, spouses and friends are encouraged to attend.

Work environment: Changes to the work environment can reduce physical and mental fatigue. Bayer Material Sciences, for example, recently lifted a 35-year ban on music in its 15 or so control rooms. Cummings says the previous anti-music policy "was based on the belief that additional noise or music would be a distraction," but recent research shows that "within certain parameters, music actually is a stimulant." Other musts in a work area include bright, full-spectrum lighting; bright colors on the walls; good airflow; and temperature control, as the human brain works best in a 68- to 70-degree environment.

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