HSE Defines Shift Working As:
There is no specific definition of shift work in law, but it is usually taken to mean a work activity scheduled outside standard daytime hours, where there may be a handover of duty from one individual or work group to another; a pattern of work where one employee replaces another on the same job within a 24-hour period.
Night work is defined within the working-time directive; typically it involves work between the hours of 11 o’clock in the evening and 6 o’clock in the morning, but can be agreed between employers and the work force to be any seven hour period that includes the period from midnight until 5 o’clock in the morning.
The Danish government has started paying compensation to women who have developed breast cancer following years of working night-shifts.
It follows a ruling from a United Nations advisory body that night work could be linked with an increased risk of cancer.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer – part of the World Health Organisation says shift work is probably carcinogenic to humans, with long term night workers having a higher level of breast cancer than women who do not work at night.
HSE research indicates that this association is appreciable but not definitive and has published a research report on the evidence.
The main areas of health and safety law relevant to shift working are:
Refer also to HSE Guidance HSG256 – ‘Managing Shift Work’.
By James Murphy
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