Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 2008;34(3):198-205    pdf

doi:10.5271/sjweh.1228

Effects of shift rotation and the flexibility of a shift system on daytime alertness and cardiovascular risk factors

by Viitasalo K, Kuosma E, Laitinen J, Härmä M

Objectives A controlled intervention study was conducted to evaluate the effects of two changes in shift characteristics on alertness and cardiovascular risk factors: a change in shift rotation (direction and speed) and a change in the flexibility of the shift system.

Methods Altogether 84 male workers currently working in a backward-rotating shift system volunteered for the study. A total of 40 men changed to a rapidly forward-rotating shift system, 22 changed to a more flexible shift system, and 22 remained with the old shift system. Health effects were studied with the use of clinical measurements, blood tests, and questionnaires before and after the shift changes. Analyses of variance were used with repeated measures to study associations of cardiovascular risk factors and daytime sleepiness according to the change in shift systems.

Results The mean number of days on which the workers reported sleepiness decreased in the group with the forward-rotating shift system when compared with that of the group on the old shift system (from 2.9 to 2.1 days/week, P=0.02). Systolic blood pressure decreased (from 142 to 136 mm Hg, P=0.049), and heart rate showed a declining trend (from 66 to 60 beats/minute, P=0.06) in the flexible shift system when the three groups were compared.

Conclusions The study indicates that a faster speed, together with a change to the forward direction, in shift rotation alleviates daytime sleepiness. Combining individual flexibility with company-based flexibility in a shift system may have favorable effects on shift workers’ blood pressure.