Companies should address health concerns of shift workers

It is heartening to see that workplaces have been put in the spotlight in the war against diabetes (Workplaces vital in war against diabetes, says Khor; Nov 27).

Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor struck a chord with me when she said that workers may compromise their health if they sleep late.

In this regard, I would like to highlight one major sector that has been neglected for far too long - those who have to work rotating shift duties, including the graveyard shift.

Previously, I worked shifts for 10 years and I understand the plight of those in this situation.

Those on rotating shifts face a significantly higher risk of contracting diseases like diabetes and hypertension, and heart diseases as their duties involve the regular upsetting of their circadian rhythm and the disruption of normal sleep patterns as they try to repay the accumulated sleep debt during the day.

Those who work shifts, especially the night shift, also have a higher propensity to indulge in unhealthy food at night as healthier options are not as readily available then.

Therefore, it should be mandatory for employers to provide compulsory health screening for those who work shifts.

Workers involved in rotating shifts should also be educated on how to cushion the long-term effects of such work patterns on their health and the precautions that can be taken.

As more companies and organisations are operating around the clock, we should ensure that the health concerns of this increasing pool of workers are adequately addressed.

Seah Yam Meng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 29, 2018, with the headline 'Companies should address health concerns of shift workers'. Print Edition | Subscribe