Night Shift Workers and Fatigue – Know your limits!

  Posted August 23, 2019


Under the Working Time Regulations 2003, employers must decide if they employ night workers.  If you do, then they must be offered a free health check before commencing work, and periodically (usually every year) thereafter. Night Time is defined as the period between 11.00pm and 6.00am and a Night Worker is defined as someone who regularly works at least 3 hours of daily working time during 11.00pm and 6.00am.

The regulations recommend seeking health professional advice to design a suitable health questionnaire which is the minimum requirement. They also recommend offering examinations where the questionnaire shows there may be a problem. Employers must keep a record of the outcome of the examination for at least two years, and should consider the effects on young or pregnant workers in particular.

Night workers

About Fatigue:

Many companies have their employees work either continuous night shifts, or day/night rotating shifts. Although night work has proven effective in increasing productivity, many employers often overlook the health risks to the individual; which in turn can have serious consequences.

One of the main health consequences of a night worker is Fatigue! 

Fatigue is defined as the decrease in both mental and/or physical performance which can be a direct result of the following:

  • A temporary or consistent disturbance of the bodies natural body clock
  • Sleep debt which stems from the insufficient quality of sleep
  • Pro-longed exertion
  • A repetitive, monotonous and complex workload such as that of a factory worker can also increase the employee’s risk of fatigue.

Possible Consequences of Fatigue:

  • Reduced productivity and quality of work.
  • Increase of minor to serious incidents.
  • Increase in employee absences.

Fatigue affects much more than just the employee’s attention span and there isn’t a universal quick fix. This is mainly due to the bodies natural body clock taking anything between a number of days to several weeks to fully adjust. With many employees on a rotating shift pattern, it is highly advised to monitor the employee’s health. A thorough risk assessment is also required and factors such as their home life should be considered.

Before any night work is undertaken, it is advised that a night worker medical is completed and be reviewed by an OH nurse to ensure the employee is fit to undertake specific tasks. Please get in touch with one of our advisers for more information and support.

Night Shift Workers



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