As we approach the spring months and warming temperatures, companies may begin to consider how they can be more productive and generate more profits. One way to increase productivity is to increase the use of your fixed resources by adding additional work shifts, including shifts that work through the night.
Some types of crops may even benefit from nighttime harvesting. Other activities such as packing and shipping can be done anytime during the day as long as there is enough lighting. At certain times it even becomes necessary to work at night.
However, night work creates additional challenges for employees. These challenges can negatively impact the health of employees and increase the likelihood of injuries if they are not managed properly. This happens when workers cannot concentrate on their jobs due to fatigue, drowsiness, or low visibility of potential hazards due to poor lighting.
Physiological Impact of Working at Night
It’s no secret that working at night affects the average person differently than working during the day. Our bodies are designed to rest and sleep at night and be wakeful and work during the day. While many people can acclimatize to working at night, working at night can eventually cause sleep deprivation and fatigue. The reason for this is our bodies are controlled by an internal biological clock that is influenced by daylight and darkness. This results in our bodies slowing down as darkness approaches because our bodies are preparing for sleep. The hormone that controls our sleep cycles, melatonin, reaches its highest levels in the body during the middle of the night.
Therefore, it takes more effort and energy to remain awake at night because of this natural tendency of our bodies to slow down at night. Fatigue and exhaustion are increased because when the night work is over and we want to sleep during daylight hours, our internal body clock tells us that it is the time to be awake and active, causing us not to get enough healthy sleep. In essence, working at night requires more energy and attention since it is more dangerous and impacts your overall health and fitness.
Reduce the Impact of Working at Night
Most people need eight hours of sleep to feel rested. To minimize the negative effects of night work you need to develop good day-time sleeping habits. First, make sure that your sleeping area is darkened and quiet, and suitable for sleeping. It is essential that you sleep in an area that is dark as lighted areas prevent deep sleep. Noise can also prevent you from getting restful sleep, so it is necessary to sleep in a room away from the street and other noisy areas. You may even find it helpful to wear ear buds or earphones to screen out most noise. Avoid daytime activities such as watching television in the bedroom. If you are unable to sleep after a reasonable time try some relaxation exercise or listen to relaxing music.
Working at Night Has Special Safety and Security Issues
Here are work site safety and security tips to help you work safely and productively at night:
• When possible work in lighted areas. Exposure to bright light during the night has an alerting effect on the brain and prevents drowsiness.
• Take a nap if possible; a nap of little as 30 minutes is enough to improve alertness.
• Eat and drink properly so that you do not start your night shift hungry or dehydrated.
• Darkness reduces the visibility for both you and others in the work area.
• Be even more aware than in the day-time of your surroundings to avoid tripping over or bumping into objects.
• Condensation on objects is more likely at night due to cooler temperatures. This will make work surfaces slippery. Be sure of your footing when walking, climbing steps or mounting equipment and be careful about your grip on objects, such as hand tools, especially sharp tools.
• Be especially aware of the location of moving equipment such as tractors, harvesters and trucks.
• If you operate equipment, be extra alert for your fellow employees working around you.
• Wear appropriate clothing for the type of work you will be performing. Wear light colored clothing to aid in being visible.
• Some positions such as irrigation workers, have both day and night shifts. Special attention should be paid to their fitness, rest and eating needs.
Personal security can be more difficult at night with criminal activity such as robberies, burglaries and assaults more likely. Security should be increased at night to offset these exposures.
Senior management typically works during the day. In order to insure the safety and proper management of a night shift, companies should make sure they have experienced and knowledgeable managers to oversee and guide the activities of the night crews.
Working at night can be profitable and productive. However, companies should be aware of the unique set of risks present during nighttime hours and take steps to deal with these risks. Employees should understand the needs of getting enough rest and create an environment at home where they can get sufficient sleep during the day if they work at night.
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