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Could Shift Work Be An Occupational Health Hazard?

Could shift work be an occupational health hazard?

Occupational health and safety has been at the forefront of protecting the lives of workers. It has focused on reducing workplace injuries from accidents that can be prevented.

New research is now changing the focus from the short term effects of injuries to the long term health burden of work practice. Working patterns are a risk factor for both obesity and type 2 diabetes, now considered a pandemic across the world.

I have mentioned in a number of blogs the potential hazard of poor sleeping patterns and it’s effect on our weight and health. Dr Virginia Barbour, chief editor of the journal PLoS Medicine and fellow editors reinforce the case for unhealthy eating as a new form of occupational hazard, especially in those workplaces that employ shift workers.

Not only is the sleep pattern affected, there is easy access to junk food compared to healthier options just makes it harder to keep to a good diet. We are moving toward a 24/7 pattern of life and shift work is going to become more common. This work pattern has the potential increase the rates of obesity and related diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

There is good research that has found strong links between rotating night shift work and risk of type 2 diabetes. In a research paper by An Pan, they analyzed 18-20 years of follow up data from the US Nurses Health Study (NHS).

The research demonstrated what many of you who are shift workers experience every day; weight gain! In fact, I was contacted by a mate earlier this year about his challenge with controlling his weight since he became a shift worker asking for advice.

If you are a shift worker it is vital that you speak with your managers about adopting some healthy habits. I’d be more than happy to have a chat with them to help you create an environment that makes healthy eating easier. You can call me on 0413 601144.

References: "Poor Diet in Shift Workers: A New Occupational Health Hazard?"; The PLoS Medicine Editors 2011 PLoS Med 8(12):

29 Feb 2012

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