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Recession raises safety risks of 24/7 operations

Management actions taken during the 2001-2002 economic recession have significantly challenged 24/7 operations, stretching staffing levels to dangerously low levels and placing employees at an increased risk for accidents, injuries and performance errors, according to Circadian Technologies' "2002 Shiftwork Practices" survey of the 24/7 workplace.

"The survey underscores the challenges posed by record levels of overtime, increasing risks due to human-error accidents, and limited workplace provisions for the unique needs of those in 24/7 shiftwork positions, such as childcare, employee training and rest facilities," states Dr. Martin Moore-Ede, president and CEO of Circadian Technologies, Inc.

Survey results depict insufficient staffing, higher overtime levels, increased human-error-related accidents due to stress and overwork, limited employee involvement in shift schedule changes, and inadequate childcare, training and workplace napping provisions for those working non-traditional hours.

Key results include:

  • Overtime: The number of shiftworkers working more than 400 hours of overtime each year has increased by 45 percent since 2000.

  • Holdovers: Seventy-three percent of facilities reported using holdovers, where the shift length is increased or doubled, to cover necessary overtime. Other studies have already demonstrated that mandatory overtime costs U.S. employers $150 billion per year in stress and fatigue-related problems.

Managers from 623 facilities, representing nearly 120,000 employees, participated in the survey. Responses came from a range of 24/7 operations, including manufacturing, process production, utilities, public safety, healthcare and service industries.

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