Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 1998;24 suppl 3:49-54    pdf

Shift length as a determinant of retrospective on-shift alertness

by Tucker P, Smith L, Macdonald I, Folkard S

Objectives This study examined the combined effects of shift length (8 versus 12 hours) and night-to-morning-shift changeover time (0600 versus 0700) on retrospective on-shift alertness ratings.

Methods An abridged version of the Standard Shiftwork Index, which included retrospective alertness ratings, was completed by 4 groups of industrial shift workers. Two groups worked 8-hour shift systems and started their morning shifts at either 0600 or 0700; the other 2 groups worked 12-hour systems, starting their day shifts at either 0600 or 0700.

Results The 8-hour workers reported considerably higher levels of alertness in the afternoon, while the 12-hour workers were more alert than the 8-hour workers in the morning and at 2200. Workers who started their shift around 0600 were less alert during the morning than those who started around 0700. The data suggested that the combined effects of working 8-hour shifts and starting the morning shift at around 0600 have particularly deleterious effects upon alertness.
Conclusions Effects on alertness can be explained in terms of differences in elapsed time on duty, sleep duration, sleep disruption, and chronic fatigue. The findings of this study appear to contradict previous research demonstrating that the major deleterious effects of extended shifts and delayed changeovers upon alertness occur at night. However, it is acknowledged that the absence of a difference in alertness at night may have been due to floor effects. Nevertheless, the implications of the alertness ratings for performance and safety, particularly during the afternoon, should not be ignored.

The following articles refer to this text: 2002;28(6):394-401; 2010;36(2):121-133; 2011;37(1):62-69