The dangers of shift work

Quarries alert to dangers of shift work

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Working shifts can take its toll on workers and special care therefore needs to be taken to ensure that their physical and mental health is looked after.

In the quarrying industry, this is a particular concern as the working environment can be an isolated one with little in the way of human interaction and few stimulus to peak human attention. Fatigue related accidents can therefore also become a threat and should be monitored by health and safety personnel, as well as fellow workers.

Nico Pienaar of the opencast mining  association Aspasa, says that every quarry’s health and safety protocol should include awareness of the effects of working shifts and there should be mitigating procedures in place to deal with any problems that may arise as a result of these stresses.

Causes depression

“There are many factors that can affect the quality of life and health of shift workers. A good example is the lack of contact with the outside world and inability to take care of basic day-to-day transactions during normal working hours.  In the case of debt, or family responsibility-types of interactions the result of this type of isolation can be devastating and can lead to considerable stress for the worker.

“Likewise, the lack of contact with family members and loved ones can also lead to certain forms of depression which may manifest in different ways. Companies therefore need to be alert and have clear channels for workers to follow to seek relief in the case of any of these stresses affecting their day-to-day lives.

“It pays to identify issues in a timeous manner before they manifest into bigger problems. Whether the worker is driven to depression due to shift related difficulties, or whether they deprive themselves of adequate sleep to catch up on day-to-day activities, either way the worker will not perform at their optimum and the company will not get the best out of these workers,” says Nico.

Compliance required

He continues that the Mine Health and Safety Act, as well as the Basic Conditions of Employment Act have clear guidelines relating to healthy working practices in the quarrying (mining) sector, as well as stipulating hours that may be worked, rest intervals and rest between shifts. These should be closely abided with.

Contraventions of either act may have severe consequences in the form of fines or other penalties. Correct working procedures are also stipulated in Aspasa’s own Health and Safety program which requires compliance with legal as well as its own best practices.  Member companies are also required to test and measure their compliance to these requirements in mandatory annual Health and Safety Audits.

 Aspasa, Nico Pienaar, Tel: (011) 791 3327, Fax: 086 647 8034, Email:, Web:

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Issue 29


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