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RR318 - Effect of shift schedule on offshore shiftworkers' circadian rhythms and health

The offshore oil and gas industry operates a diverse range of shift work schedules, with uncertainty as to which are the most appropriate in terms of health and safety. Night-shift work causes desynchronisation of the work and sleep periods with the circadian rhythm (body clock). Such desynchrony leads to reduced alertness, fatigue, disturbances to sleep and to the normal metabolic response to meals consumed at night, and consequently may be detrimental to health and safety.

Previously it has been demonstrated that offshore oil installation workers can adapt their circadian rhythm to a night shift schedule, by advancing or delaying the rhythm timing, depending on the schedule and conditions. Light is the major factor controlling the timing of the circadian system. Increased light at night improves alertness and performance and may possibly improve metabolic responses to meals during night shift conditions.

It is of interest to the offshore industry to identify which commonly operated offshore shift schedules allow circadian adaptation and whether this confers any benefit with regard to fatigue, performance and metabolism. This project was undertaken by the University of Surrey for the Health and Safety Executive with the following aims:

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Updated 2010-03-19