night-shift work

Working Night Shifts Increase Accident Risk

July 16, 2015 | Hancock Injury Attorneys

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 15 million Americans are employed in second or third shift positions. While the pay increase may be appealing, the effects on the body can be severely detrimental. This is particularly true in certain positions that rely on keen awareness and quality decision making skills. Medical professionals, police officers, and truck drivers are perfect examples. Fatigue, restlessness, and lack of focus affect the cognitive performance necessary to carry out critical functions associated with these jobs. Psychologists are continuously investigating these issues and how fatigue from disrupted circadian rhythms can impact public safety.

Circadian Rhythms

The human body runs on hormones that control numerous aspects of everyday physiological functioning. Body temperature, hunger, mood, and sleep cycles are examples of functions run by the hormonal endocrine system. When the body’s cycle is disrupted by abnormal schedules, problems including sleep disorders, delayed reflexes, decreased cognitive functioning, and fatigue may arise. At deeper levels of sleep during natural periods of rest, growth hormones parole the body for threats like bacteria or viruses. Without these natural built-in safeguards, every aspect of physical functioning can be diminished.

Danger to the Public

Lack of regular sleep can be frustrating and exhausting for employees experiencing disrupted circadian rhythms. But how does this translate into a public safety issue? The public relies on the following professions to be responsible for their well-being:

  • Emergency medical personnel, such as paramedics, emergency room staff and surgeons are all required to make life-altering, high pressure decisions. Despite recommendations from the Institute of Medicine to reduce hours, nurses commonly work two 12 hour, consecutive shifts. Investigations show a definite connection between nurse fatigue, medical errors, and poor medical care. Residents in medical training commonly work 24 hour shifts or longer. A study conducted in 2004 reported first-year residents caused over half of the medical errors during these long shifts.
  • Police officers are also relied upon to make split-second, life-or-death decisions in the best interest of the public. Unfortunately, the effects of erratic shift scheduling often contradict these expectations. Many low-ranking officers and rookies are required to work especially sporadic shifts. A few day shifts followed by an extended night shift can result in chronic fatigue. A recent national study shows that police were six times more fatigued than other public service positions requiring extended overnight hours. In the same study, 16 percent of officers admitted to having difficulty staying awake while working. Another study reported that approximately 40 percent of police officers in the U.S. suffer from sleep disorders.
  • Truck drivers are well known for working overnight shifts. While they do not have the same emergency responsibilities that medical workers and police officers do, they are responsible for promoting safe driving conditions. The combination of long, overnight hours and consistent solitude makes fatigue one of the most common causes of truck accidents today. To battle this trucking industry epidemic, recent legislation requires truck drivers and trucking companies to log their hours. Certain rest periods are required by law and there are caps on the number of allowed driving hours in one shift.

Hancock Injury Attorneys

The consequences of fatigue from night shifts can be devastating. From unnecessary medical errors to injuries in an accident involving a large truck, a victim’s life can be irrevocably altered. At Hancock Injury Attorneys, we will evaluate your case with compassion, integrity, and skill. We have valuable insurance industry experience, as well as extensive experience successfully protecting the rights of accident and injury victims throughout Florida. Contact Hancock Injury Attorneys today.