Joondalup [Australia], November 26 (ANI): Workers in entry and exit (FIFO) shifts are losing much-needed sleep due to the design and lifestyle behaviors of their staff, and a potential risk of sleep disorders, according to a new study.
The research has been published in the ‘Applied Ergonomics Journal’.
Edith Cowan University (ECU) conducted the largest study of its kind in the global mining industry, tracking the sleep habits of 75 FIFO shift workers in Australia.
Study participants wore an approved sleep and activity monitoring device for three weeks during a “two and one” job rotation consisting of seven day shifts, then seven night shifts followed by a week off.
Participants also answered questions about sleep and lifestyle behaviors.
The research found that day shifts started before 6 a.m. and required a 4 a.m. wake up time, reducing the opportunity for sleep and causing significant sleep loss before the shift.
Sleep time was 77 minutes shorter after each night shift and 30 minutes shorter after the day shift, resulting in accumulated sleep debt before returning home for a seven-day rest period.
Research lead Dr Ian Dunican said this type of sleep loss can result in poor alertness and fatigue during a shift, or the accumulated number of shifts over the roster cycle of 14 consecutive shifts.
“The nature of the staff means that people typically work shifts in excess of 12 hours, plus travel, eating, exercise and downtime,” he said.
“When all these activities are combined, there is little opportunity left for eight hours of sleep; the reality is that many workers sleep less than seven hours a night,” he added.
The study also found that 60 percent of the participants were at risk of developing sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea and shift work disorder, which, if left untreated, contribute more to sleep loss.
The research is the first to identify the potential risk of prevalence of sleep disorders in Australian miners.
It also revealed other worrying unhealthy lifestyle factors, such as high levels of obesity (23 percent) and dangerous alcohol consumption (36 percent).
List design combined with undiagnosed sleep disorders, dangerous alcohol consumption and obesity can contribute to poor sleep patterns.
“Limited downtime and struggling with falling asleep may also be affecting alcohol consumption,” Dr Dunican said. Said.
“People may be turning to alcohol to help them sleep, but it actually has a detrimental effect on the quality of their sleep and their overall health,” he added.
Shift work is common in the mining industry as mining companies must run their operations 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
But Dr Dunican said he was concerned to find such high rates of FIFO workers experiencing acute sleep loss and low alertness during a shift.
“This poses a largely avoidable health and safety risk,” he said, and recommended that companies reassess staffing designs with an emphasis on ensuring workers get adequate rest.
“Even small changes in shift start and end times can significantly reduce risk, improving sleep opportunities without affecting production,” he added.
He said that in order to support the sleep health of shift workers, education should be provided on good sleep health practices and healthy lifestyles, as well as sleep disorder screening and treatment programs.
“We need to look for ways to improve the design of shifts and cadres and ensure that workers have adequate quality sleep and access help when they need it,” he said.
Dunican said the study’s findings have implications for shift workers from other industries, such as healthcare, manufacturing, travel and logistics.
The researcher is currently examining the effectiveness of a sleep training program and biofeedback via a smartphone app for FIFO miners to improve sleep and reduce risk. (MOMENT)