Thu, Jan 04, 2018 - Page 8 News List

A better way to plan shift rotation

By Chang Heng-hao 張恆豪 Huang Yi-ling 黃怡翎

However, the Executive Yuan’s proposed amendments would allow using backward shift rotation, which means that workers’ shifts are rotated backward from the day shift to the night shift and so on, allowing only eight hours’ rest between shifts when they are rotated.

There is already plenty of scientific evidence to show that forward shift rotation can reduce negative effects on circadian rhythms and the resulting disruption to workers’ biological clocks.

Backward rotation, in contrast, can disrupt workers’ autonomic nervous systems, heighten their risk of cardiovascular disease, cause fatigue and affect sleep quality.

A 2016 South Korean study of more than 4,000 electronics factory workers on a three-shift rotation system found that backward shift rotation has about twice the risk of causing sleep problems compared with forward rotation.

A research project done in 1982 found that about 30 percent of employees working under backward shift rotation said they had fallen asleep at work, and about 80 percent of workers said they needed two to four days or even longer to get used to the new work and sleep cycle after changing shifts.

When people work under such conditions, there is a greater risk of occupational accidents and the effect it has on their daily routines can easily lead to conflict with their family members.

If the government sincerely wishes to learn from the systems used in other nations, it should provide workers with reasonable rest times and forward shift rotation, which works better with people’s biological clocks.

It should also amend the Labor Standards Act to include a regulation that all employees should have consecutive rest periods when not working, thus avoiding fragmented work hours.

These steps are essential for Taiwan to shake off its reputation as a “nation of overwork.”

In view of the various research projects done around the world since the 1980s, Taiwan this year must not adopt retrograde legal amendments that would drag our work-time system back into the bad old days.

Chang Heng-hao is a physician in National Cheng Kung University Hospital’s occupational and environmental medicine department. Huang Yi-ling is the executive director of Taiwan Occupational Safety and Health Link.

Translated by Julian Clegg

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