What is the impact of fatigue on the well-being of shift workers

What is the impact of fatigue on the well-being of shift workers

Literature Review

Many workers are involved in shift work at different levels with a number of work shift occupations having increased significantly over the years to close to ten million (Office of National Statistics 2005). Associated work shift to different impacts to both the companies and the workers. While work shifts can have positive impacts to the company, it can have adverse effects to the workers themselves. Various studies have also concurred to this belief associating work shifts different impacts to physical, psychological, emotional, safety, and social impacts. To all these effects, fatigue takes the largest proportion in affecting the well-being of shift workers (Harriate, 1990). This literature, therefore, will review previous studies on how workers’ wellbeing is affected by fatigue accumulated from shift work.

Health fatigue related impacts on shift worker

Fatigue encompasses the welfare, lifestyle, and health implications to shift workers from demanding and exhausting jobs. Broader senses of shift workers present a pyramid of mental, social, and health issues (Jennifer, Amr, & Cliff, 2012). Insufficient and poor sleep pattern, which are particularly experienced by shift workers, arises from troubled sleeping and waking up early. It is implicated to a number of health related issues, deficit in mental and psychomotor performance. Fatigue is the most common encounter and reaction of shift workers (Health and Safety Executive 2006).

Physical fatigue

Physical fatigue on shift workers can be classified as either local or systemic fatigue (Graham and John 2008).


  1. Local fatigue is caused from arrested blood flow to the working muscles, which reduces oxygen supply and clearance of metabolites (Peter, 1981). A reduced oxygen supply leads production of lactic acids from the tissues that depend on anaerobic metabolism (Harrison & Horne, 2000). The production of energy hence limiting working times of the tissues which result on local fatigue amounts from static and high intensive works (Health and Safety Executive 2006). .


  1. Systemic fatigue, it is often referred as whole body fatigue. It can be measured by heart rates, oxygen uptake, blood pressure, body temperature and respiration rates of a worker. Shift workers who are associated to demanding jobs do experience mental stress, work –rest patterns, thermal stress from high temperatures, and muscle workloads. This affects the well-being of these workers as this affects the health that can develop to fatal and chronic illnesses in the long run. According to research by conducted by HSE, some shift workers developed heart disease and cancer in the long run as they approached their retirement ages.


Social Isolations

Work-centered shift workers do have little or no time for recreation and exercises. This suggests that they have little time with both their families and friends, which presents a dangerous social imposition due to seclusions which develop anti social behaviors and social isolation (Graham and John 2008). According to Health and safety Executive (2006) most of the shift workers especially night shifter were found to be smoker according to the study.

Safety Risks

The psychomotor ability of shift workers is reduced due to fatigue, which is job related (Kerkhof & Dongen, 2010). This can impact seriously on the wellbeing of the workers who become prone to accidents from the work environment. Many studies associated industrial accidents to shift worker’s mistake commonly referred to as human error. This was established after a close correlation development of night shifts to accidents (Office for National Statistics, 2005). Hence, from a reduced psychological motor from fatigue related issues, the safety of these workers were found to be on the line (Graham and John 2008).

Shift work can be beneficial to workers in terms of convenience, flexibility, and finance enhancement. On the contrary, this literature review finds it to have imperatively negative impacts on the well-being for the shift workers due to fatigue. The negative implications are reflected on the social, health, and psychological well being of the workers as illustrated by this literature. The most influential theory regarding occupational stress is the person-environment (P-E) fit theory which indicates that stress arises from a misfit between the worker and the environment. When workers think their work environment is not conducive, they develop diverse strains that eventually affect their health and well-being. Some examples of environment strains include job responsibilities, deadlines, and group and organizational norms.



Graham, P. B., & John, 2008. Hydration status and physiological workload of UAE construction workers: A prospective longitudinal observational study. Journalof Occupational Medicine and Toxicology, Bates and Schneider; Licensee BioMed Central Ltd. Available from: http://www.occup-med.com/content/3/1/21 referencing error

Harriate, B. P., 2003. Working in a 24/7 Economy: challenges for American Families, Russels Sage Foundation.

Health and Safety Executive, 2006.Managing Shiftwork: health and safety guidance, Crown, Norwich, UK.

Hulmut, W 1990. Shifts in the welfare mix: their impact on work, social services and welfare policies, Campus Verlag, Indiana University.

Jennifer, S. S. Amr, A.K., & Cliff, J. S., 2012, A Guide for Nighttime Construction, Impact on safety, Quality and Productivity, Transportation Research Board.

Office for National Statistics, 2005. Labour Force Survey 1992-2005: the Stationery Office.

Peter, F., 1981. The effect of Shift Work on the lives of employees. Assessed on 26th, March, 2014; http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/1981/10/art5full.pdf

Harrison, Y., & Horne, 2000. J M ‘The impact of sleep deprivation on decision making: A review.

Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied 2000 6(3) 236-249

Kerkhof, G. A., & Dongen, H. P. A. V., 2010. Human sleep and cognition. Amsterdam, Elsevier Science.


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