Fatigue And Shiftwork

December 26, 2013 Dave Weber No Comments



At some companies, more accidents seem to occur on the second and third shifts than the first shift.  Ever wonder why?  I have uncovered some interesting reasons for this that I’d like to share with you.

  • One company I worked with in Minneapolis, Minnesota had most of their accidents occur on the second shift.  I looked into it and found that on the second shift they only had one supervisor for over 200 employees who were spread out over two floors.  Employees had little supervision and got away with numerous safety and work rule violations.  Two employees were even caught getting high by inhaling chemical vapors from drums of flammable liquids in the storage vault! 
  • A Wisconsin company I worked with two years ago had runaway accidents on their second shift.  I investigated and found that they did not have a single supervisor or manager working their second shift.  Once they assigned a supervisor to watch the six or eight employees on the second shift, their accidents virtually stopped.
  • In 2005, I worked in Toronto Canada for four months.  Our companies’ factory in Etobicoke was on strike and it was my job to make sure the temp employees we hired to fill in for the striking workers didn’t get hurt.  It was a large plant, and initially we did not have enough supervision on the second shift.  One night we caught five of the temp employees doing drugs in a remote area of the warehouse.  They were fired, and more supervisors were asigned to the second shift.


The common thread to the above three scenarios was inadequate supervision on the night shifts.  Why some companies think they can get away with less supervision on the second and third shifts is a mystery to me.   I would argue that just the opposite should occur.  Because the night shifts are usually where the new employees are assigned, there should be a greater ratio of supervisors to employees on night shifts – not less!

Night shift employees are often more spread out then day shift employees.  This makes it harder for night shifters to get assistance when lifting something heavy.  Remind night shift employees that they need to take the time to get help when lifting something heavy, and not attempt to lift more than they should.

The safety department should not neglect the night shifts either!  If you have more than one safety professional at a facility, permanently assign one of them to the night shift.  If you have only one person in the safety department, he/she should either rotate shifts, or regularly make unannounced visits to the second and third shifts.

Below is a link on fatique and shiftwork:



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