Archive for the ‘Shift and Flexible Work’ Category
In a May 2012 journal, Harvard University researchers reported on ongoing research to understand the range of health effects produced by increased exposure to light at night, especially blue light emitted by electronics, including smartphones and tablets.
According to the report, many studies have identified a broad spectrum of serious health concerns such as diabetes, heart disease, depression, and several types of cancer as being linked to nighttime light exposure, especially when such exposure is a daily work environment.
Exposure to light suppresses melatonin, which is a hormone critical to regulating circadian rhythms and sleep/wake cycles. Increased exposure to light is part of the reason so many report poor sleep. Moreover, blue light, which is emitted by many electronics and energy-efficient bulbs, suppresses melatonin for almost twice as long as incandescent lights. In short, the quest for energy efficiencies in lighting will have a significant effect on health unless some adjustments are made. Some options are:
-Use incandescent or warm tone lights for evening reading. Avoid LED’s, especially those with a lot of blue light.
-Avoid using electronics or working night. If you must, wear blue-blocking glasses, such as Slumber Shades.
Everyone should be alert to unintended consequences from the benefit of light in the evening. Energy efficiency savings are significant for everyone, but using them should not cost your health.
See: Blue Light Has a Dark Side http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Health_Letter/2012/May/blue-light-has-a-dark-side
In a January 2013 article written for the Office of Health Safety Canada, author Ann Ruperstein outlines and illustrates the extraordinary safety problem that fatigue and sleep disorders have become, especially as a result of the increase in use of flexible shift workers. She also identifies the research and increasing corporate interest in measures to respond to the problem.
According to Dr. Adam Moscovitch of University of Calgary, over the last 100 years the average amount of sleep diminished from 9 hours to six, and at least 10% of the population is affected by chronic sleep deprivation. Moreover, in this 24/7 world, many see sleeping as an unproductive “a waste of time”, and attempt to accomplish more and more during each day.
Does it matter? In a recent Australian study, researchers compared the cognitive functioning due to sleepiness with that due to alcohol consumption. They match; a professional working with 17 hours of wakefulness will have the same decision-making and reflex capability as someone who is legally impaired with alcohol. According to statistics from the National Sleep Foundation in Virginia, over 200,000 car accidents a year are related to sleepiness and fatigue. The Exxon Valdez oil spill, Three Mile Island nuclear accident, and multiple airplane crashes all cite fatigue as a significant factor in the catastrophes. Managing fatigue among flexible schedule professionals is a national safety issue as much as a productivity and health issue.
Both the Canadian and the U.S. occupational safety and health agencies have substantially increased their focus on the real consequences of sleep deprivation. The changing picture of the global workforce –a wider range of professions working more flexible hours than ever in history – compelled the OSHA agencies to expand their historical focus on factory and machine safety to include fatigue issues.