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Are you meeting your legal obligations for the health and safety of your shift workers?

by , 25 November 2013
By its nature, shift work is tough. It requires the employee to work at night, which messes with their bodies' natural rhythms. This makes them more susceptible to diseases and to insomnia. They also have to tackle fatigue and restlessness, and in jobs that require them to make split-second life-or-death decisions, you can just imagine how risky it gets! And it's your responsibility to make sure these employees are safe and that their exposure to risk and hazard is minimised as far as possible.

According to the experts at the Health and Safety Advisor Loose Leaf, all legislation that applies during normal working hours at the workplace also applies during shift work. It doesn't matter what time of day or night the work is performed.
But, you must give special attention to work that's performed at night because of the risks involved, including workers falling asleep on the job.
Here are the details of six laws you must comply with, to protect your shift workers.
Six laws that apply to shift work
1. You can't allow your employee to work more than five continuous hours without a break and you must allow an employee a daily rest period of at least 12 consecutive hours between ending and recommencing of work. You must also allow your employee a weekly rest period of at least 36 consecutive hours. Make sure you keep this in mind when you design your shift rosters.
2. The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) applies during all working hours. You must ensure your workplace is safe and without risk to the health of your employees. It doesn't matter what time of day or night your employees work. If you don't comply with the OHSA and all other relevant legislation applicable to your company, you could face penalties or even jail time, including the possibility of having your company shut down.
3. If you have more than 20 employees you must have an HSE representative. This requirement also applies during shift work. You should have at least one HSE representative per shift, to assist you and your employees with all health and safety related requirements.
4. If you have more than five employees working a shift, you must make sure there's a first aid box available and employees know where to find it.
5. If you have more than 10 employees, you must ensure a trained first aider's available for every group of 50 employees. This means if you have 50 employees working a shift, there must be a trained first aider also working that shift.
6. There must be sufficient lighting for the type of work conducted during shift work, especially if the work is performed at night.

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