IFA at STAMI – National differences of working times


Barbara Hirschwald
Research officer at IFA

In May 2017, I was given the opportunity to spend one week at the Norwegian Institute of Occupational Health. The purpose of this exchange visit to STAMI was to expand the network on the topical issue working time. Several studies indicate that an unhealthy arrangement of working hours may be associated with an elevated risk of occupational injury. The possible biological mechanisms that compromise occupational safety is still not clear. The individual tolerance to shift work may be influenced by chronotype, sleep duration and age. My stay at STAMI enabled me to exchange knowledge and experiences with reseachers from different scientific areas. The discussion of working time issues helped me to identify causal association. Especially the insight into country specific regularities of working time, breaks and recovery time allowed us comparative studies to identify the impact on occupational safety.

During my visit I had the chance to collaborate with the members of the working time network. We presented our work to each other and I learned a lot from my colleagues’ projects, i.e. about
• long and compressed working time
• the impact of sleep deficiency on pain
• shift work and cancer
• working time, workload, health and occupational injuries
• a smartphone app on injuries by electricity
• fatigue and sleepiness in transport

I also presented first results of an ongoing project about chronotype, lack of sleep and occupational accidents. Short sleep duration and disturbed sleep are associated with a higher accident risk. Atypical work-times such as night shifts and very early shifts can affect the quality and quantity of sleep. Humans and animals are influenced by their biological clock which is genetically determined and synchronized by daylight. In this cross-sectional study, data were collected from about 550 employees in the wood and metal working industry. Analyses were conducted for relationships between chronotype, start of working time, sleep duration and accidents. The study shows significant chronotype-dependant differences in the sleep duration on work-days and free days. Early chronotypes seem to be unable to compensate their sleep deficit on free days, late types are unable to sleep early in the evening. Results will be useful for identifying groups of workers at greatest risk of sleep deficit and sleepiness at work to minimize accidents in workers with an early starting time of work or night work.

The exchange was very well organized by the Norwegian hosts and I had a warm welcome. The experiences at STAMI are of great benefit to my scientific work at IFA. It allowed insights into planned and ongoing projects and detailed knowledge about particularities in occupational safety and health in another PEROSH-country.

I would like to thank Pål Molander and Dietmar Reinert, who made this successful exchange possible and especially to thank my mentoring hosts Matre Dagfinn, Jenny-Anne Lie and Elisabeth Goffeng.