Waking up to the risks

The effects of long and irregular working hours on sleep have been examined in a study focusing on maritime pilots. The findings could play an important role in setting future shift patterns and putting systems in place to cut the risk of accidents and health issues linked to fatigue.

Researchers discovered on-roster pilots reported sleeping for a shorter period at night than colleagues who were off-roster. Pilots on call also suffered a drop in the duration and quality of their sleep. The study also showed participants weren’t full recovered before they started a night shift and the quality of their sleep was worse after a night shift compared to following a day shift.

Forty maritime pilots from ports in Australia took part in the project, carried out by a team of academics from Deakin University. They said: “Long and irregular work hours of maritime pilotage can compromise worker performance and safety. This observational study found that on-roster pilots experience reduced sleep duration compared to those off-roster, while working on-call further diminishes sleep duration and quality. Future workload/fatigue monitoring systems may mitigate fatigue-related accidents and adverse chronic health outcomes.”

The research, by Jamie Tait, Timothy Chalmers, Regan Tait and Luana Main, has been published in Ergonomics and can be read here.

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