If your employees work on a rostering system which does not allow for sufficient time off in between shifts, this could pose a health and safety risk to both your employees and your business.
Whilst there is no law stipulating a minimum period between rostered shifts, companies and their officers have duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 to, as far as reasonably practicable, protect the health and safety of their workers (this includes employees and contractors).
“Health” is defined in the legislation as a worker’s mental and physical health.
If a worker works long shifts, with an insufficient break in between shifts to rest, they are likely to be at risk of mental fatigue. WorkSafe has focused in on fatigue as a hazard in recent months. It was found to be the cause of a fatality in the case of WorkSafe v Michael Vining Contractors Limited, in which a tractor driver crashed his tractor and died whilst driving home. The driver had worked 16.75 hours on the day of the incident and 197.25 hours in the two weeks prior.
WorkSafe provides the following suggestions when drafting rosters:
- Design rosters well to allow for good sleep opportunity and recovery time between work days. (Note that WorkSafe states that between 7.5 – 9 hours of sleep a night maintains health and alertness)
- Make sure that rosters are designed to remove any sleep debt. (Note: sleep loss is cumulative.)
- Design rosters that minimise disruptions to natural sleeping rhythms. Avoid work starts before 6.00 am where possible. If night work is required, limit the number of night shifts in a row that your workers can work.
Workplace Law team
If you have any queries in respect of the above, or any other Workplace Law issues, please contact a member of Lane Neave’s Workplace Law team:
Employment: Andrew Shaw, Fiona McMillan, Gwen Drewitt, Maria Green, Hannah Martin, Joseph Harrop, Holly Struckman, Alex Beal, Giuliana Petronelli, Abby Shieh
Immigration: Mark Williams, Rachael Mason, Daniel Kruger, Nicky Robertson, Julia Strickett, Ken Huang, Mary Zhou, Shi Sheng Cai (Shoosh), Sarah Kirkwood, Janeske Schutte, Lingbo Yu
ACC: Andrew Shaw
Health and Safety: Andrew Shaw, Fiona McMillan
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