Shifting the safety balance for overnight workers

December 02, 2012

An international team of sleep researchers has developed the world's first screening tool to help reduce workplace accidents and illnesses, including cardiovascular disease and cancer, caused by shift work.

Published in the journal Sleep, the new tool will enable health professionals and industry to better understand individual vulnerability to the health and safety impacts of shift work.

This screening questionnaire for a condition known as shift work disorder (SWD) has been developed by researchers from Monash University, and US partners, Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and the Henry Ford Hospital.

At least 15 per cent of workers in Australia, the US, and the United Kingdom, and around 23 per cent of workers in Japan are estimated to work outside normal hours, causing significant disruption to their natural sleep-wake schedules. SWD, characterised by extreme sleepiness and/or insomnia, is thought to affect around 10 per cent of shift workers.

Associate Professor Shantha Rajaratnam, of Monash and Harvard University, said the prevalence of shift work has been unknown due to the lack of accurate assessment tools.

"Shift work is a reality of modern economies, but research has shown that there are very real health risks associated with working outside regular hours," Associate Professor Rajaratnam said.

"Aside from associated health problems, shift workers are significantly more at risk of workplace injuries. The workers most affected by sleep disruption - those with SWD - account for a significant proportion of this risk and need to be identified."

Shift work, especially overnight, is associated with a higher rate of car crashes, industrial accidents, actual and near-miss injuries and quality-control errors on the job.

Secondary health problems linked with shift work include cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal diseases and mood disorders, including depression.

"This questionnaire is an important step in better understanding causes of vulnerability to shift work, and targeting interventions to those who most need them," Associate Professor Rajaratnam said.

"However, this is only a first step and further tests of actual impairment from lack of sleep must be developed for implementation in occupational settings."

"More collaboration between researchers, industry and government partners is needed to tackle these significant challenges and make shift work as safe and productive as possible."
-end-


Monash University

Related Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

New blood cancer treatment works by selectively interfering with cancer cell signalling
University of Alberta scientists have identified the mechanism of action behind a new type of precision cancer drug for blood cancers that is set for human trials, according to research published in Nature Communications.

UCI researchers uncover cancer cell vulnerabilities; may lead to better cancer therapies
A new University of California, Irvine-led study reveals a protein responsible for genetic changes resulting in a variety of cancers, may also be the key to more effective, targeted cancer therapy.

Breast cancer treatment costs highest among young women with metastic cancer
In a fight for their lives, young women, age 18-44, spend double the amount of older women to survive metastatic breast cancer, according to a large statewide study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.

Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.

Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.

More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.

New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.

American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.

Read More: Cancer News and Cancer Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.