Cognitive Abilities Affected in Shift Workers: Warehouse and Manufacturing Management

posted on: Tuesday December 15, 2015

08-abouta_1It may not surprise you that irregular shift workers have higher injury rates and health problems. What you may not know is that this kind of work can cause cognitive impairment that’s equal to 6.5 years of aging in the worker’s brain. This is a significant impact on the wellbeing of the employee, and it results in considerable risks for the employer.

The research comes from Occupational and Environmental Medicine’s “Chronic Effects of Shift Work on Cognition: Findings from the VISAT Longitudinal Study.” Shift work is compared to jet lag in its disruption to circadian rhythms. These disruptions happen to anyone who develops irregular sleep patterns by working a rotating or third shift.

On a physiological level, disruptions to circadian rhythms have been linked with cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, ulcers, metabolic syndrome, and reproductive difficulties. They have also been found to cause neurological problems, leading to the development of conditions like Alzheimer’s.

On a cognitive level, the effects are immense hazards to anyone working with heavy machinery, equipment, or tools. Fatigue can cause reduced alertness, slower reaction times, lack of concentration, and weariness. Irritability is also a possibility, which can put the worker and/or others under stress, causing poor decision-making within the fight or flight response.

When you think of your employees operating forklifts, machines, and power tools, do you want them experiencing any of the effects listed above? If you need people working around the clock for your business to function, you can’t simply eliminate odd shifts. Rather, to minimize safety concerns with third, rotating, and extended shift workers, you should consider the following:

  • Schedule more days rather than longer hours. This may not be a popular option with your employees, but according to OSHA, this is a safer bet.
  • Keep an eye out for signs of fatigue, and give options to rest. Make certain that employees are taking breaks, eating, relaxing, and even sleeping if necessary when they experience fatigue. For remote sites, ensure there is a quiet, secluded place designated for rest if possible.
  • Diligently check the schedule. Make sure no one is working longer or later than necessary. Be aware of what shifts are distributed to whom and correct when necessary.
  • Implement safer equipment. If you don’t want your employees risking their safety driving a forklift, for example, substitute the dangerous equipment when possible. Battery-powered tugs provide a far safer horizontal transport than forklifts, and they also get the operator walking around.

The dangers of sleep deprivation/interruption are real. The effects can be devastating to both employees and your business. If you’re interested in learning more about how a power tug can create a safer shift for all of your employees, contact Load Mover, Inc. Our equipment is intuitive, durable, and practical. Call us at 952-767-1720 or email info@loadmoverinc.com.