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Our research shows that your workm8tes find shiftwork a significant challenge.

It is one of the highest causes of workplace stress with nights shifts and constantly rotating rosters being the most difficult. The biggest impact is on your workm8tes’ sleep quality and social life.

White man looking serious wearing casual clothes under a tree

Shift happens - the impact of shiftwork

Shift workers and former shift workers show more signs of ill health than people on fixed day work. They experience a greater likelihood of fatigue, sleepiness, gastro-intestinal issues, poor mental health and depression.

Night shifts have the biggest impact. A worker's level of tiredness increases with the number of hours worked between 2.00am and 6.00am.

Many shift workers actually fall asleep briefly while working. These ‘microsleeps’ may last from seconds to 3 minutes and some shift workers may not be aware that they have nodded off. This is especially dangerous if your workm8tes are operating heavy machinery or working with hazardous materials.

For shift workers, the impact of one sleepless night is equivalent to someone who has been drinking alcohol.

Let’s shift the impact

We’ve pulled together a checklist of prevention and mitigation actions to reduce the impact of shiftwork on your workm8tes. See how your shifts measure up.


Reduce the impact of shiftwork and the risk of worker fatigue with these actions

Offer workers a choice of a permanent roster or rotating shifts.

Use either a rapid rotation of shifts (a select number of days) or a slow rotation of shifts (a select number of weeks). Shift design should take into account individual differences and preferences as far as possible.

Restrict the number of successive night shifts (no more than three to four if possible).

​Avoid early morning starts. Move start times forward (for example a 7.00am start not a 6.00am one).

Use forward rotation (morning / afternoon / night).

Build regularly free weekends (two consecutive days into the shift schedule, at least every three weeks.

Arrange start / finish times of the shift to be convenient for public transport, social and domestic activities and account for travelling time of workers.

Avoid long working hours (more than 50 hours per week).

Design work arrangements so that excessive hours are not incentivised (even unintentionally).

Ensure sufficient breaks are taken over long shifts.

Develop a working-hours policy on daily work hours, maximum average weekly hours, total hours over a three-month period, on-call work and work-related travel.

​Avoid overtime before or after a night shift, a 12-hour or double shift or when there is heavy mental and physical strain involved.

Limit periods of excessive physical or cognitive/mental demand for workers, particularly towards the end of the shift or week when workers are tired.

​Ensure appropriate staffing support/maintenance of a relief staff pool such as access to casual on-call workers in case of unplanned leave, emergencies, or workload increases.

Manage leave, overtime, shift-swapping and on-call duties through clear, accessible up to date communication and avoiding overloading individual workers.

Know which of your workers that are most at risk for fatigue and schedule work tasks accordingly avoiding highly demanding or hazardous work where possible. At risk workers can include shiftworkers, those recently on or recently coming off nightshift, highly demanding work, increased workloads, those with poor health and new parents.

​Schedule safety critical or highly complex work outside the low body clock periods between 2.00am and 6.00am, and between 2.00pm and 4.00pm.

Schedule work to avoid working for extended periods in extreme temperatures.

Provide amusements to enable workers to ‘switch gears’ during breaks. Computer games, comfortable tearoom, outdoor space, exercise equipment.

Avoid scheduling work-related social activities outside of core business hours.

​Ensure managers and supervisors can recognise the signs of fatigue including, headaches, tiredness, irritability, sort muscles, slowed reflexes, poor coordination, concentration and memory, dizziness, blurred vision, loss of appetite.

Download the shiftwork checklist

Take action against the impact of Shiftwork
Download PDF • 159KB

Find out more about fatigue and reduce the risk of worker stress and injury with these actions and mitigations.

Download the fatigue action checklist

Take action against the impact of Fatigue
Download PDF • 158KB

For further information on how to minimise the impact of workm8te fatigue, see WorkSafe Victoria's guide on work-related fatigue for employers.

Control your risks

Depending on the type of work being done not all job demands associated with shiftwork, can be prevented, removed or controlled. When looking to mitigate work-related risks like these job demands follow the hierarchy of control to maximise effectiveness of your actions. When demands cannot be prevented, we can use additional positive actions at both the workm8te and workplace level to help offset the negatives of the job.

Hierarchy of control pyramid. Elimination, Minimisation, Administrative Controls, then PPE

But we’re going to level with you – workplace interventions are more effective and lead to longer lasting change.

It is about getting the balance between demands and resources right at the worker and workplace level. This is done through good work-design creating good and rewarding jobs and tackling the causes of work-related stress through prevention and intervention.

We've got the tools for you

Understanding the work-related factors that impact your workm8tes is the first step to tackling the causes of workplace stress.

Learn about the key hazards workers face, how they show up, and what to do about them.

Take our free online assessment and find out what work-related factors are causing your workers stress, and get a tailored list of prioritised actions to tackle them.

Take care to design good and rewarding jobs. Good job design removes, reduces, and minimises the work-related factors that cause workplace stress, and amplifies the parts of a job that are positive and fulfilling. Find out what makes a good job, and take our online job assessment to see how your jobs measure up, and get a tailored action plan to create better, stress free jobs.



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