The 2016 Northwest Occupational Health Conference (NOHC) short course on “Health and Safety in the 24/7 Economy” drew industrial hygienists from around the region today at the Sheraton Portland Airport. Our Institute was pleased to provide four faculty members and researchers to present their knowledge and research as part of the event.
NOHC is sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Section of the American Industrial Hygiene Association. Today’s short course included the Peter Breysse keynote lecture, this year provided by our Director, Dr. Steven Shea. We all appreciate the efforts of PNS-AIHA and University of Washington’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences to support continuing education relevant to our profession.
Today’s offering included academic researchers Dr. Shea and Dr. Matt Butler on the physiological impacts of shift work, body clocks and circadian rhythms, and Dr. Nicole Bowles and Dr. Ryan Olson with unique research and interventions in transit and trucking work populations. Also shared were challenges and solutions faced within organizations as shared by Dr. Michael Fischman of Intel, Doyle Anderson with Port of Portand Dredging Operations, and Isaac Howard of the University of Washington on scheduling among fire fighters.
Both presenters and attendees agreed that there remain many challenges in attempting to address safety, health and well-being risks in our economy that seems to expect and need 24/7 operations. Speakers observed, during the panel discussion, that although there are significant concerns about potential chronic health impacts of short sleep, workers really notice and care about “quality of life” issues associated with shift work. Quality of life can increase while working shift work when supervisors are supportive; but it isn’t always easy to create better working schedules. A few tips that were shared that are useful include:
- If you must rotate work shifts, attempt to allow employees time to adapt to each schedule change, and generally rotate schedules forward (maintaining adequate rest time before next shift).
- Maintain the opportunity for sleep as much as possible when determining schedules and making organizational decisions.
- Educate on sleep hygiene.
- Recognize and treat sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea and insomnia.