The oil industry is one of Louisiana’s most lucrative industries, and it employs thousands of workers from across the state. However, though the industry may be great for the economy, it is not so great for the workers. Much of rig work is done at night, during “shift hours,” which, according to the US National Library of Medicine, is between 1900 and 0600 hours.
“Shift work,” as night work is commonly called, can be extremely dangerous. According to findings published in the NCBI article, shift work has detrimental effects on sleep, health, safety, working conditions, adaptation and family- and social life. Shift work, in particularl that which occurs between 2200 and 0600 hours, is associated with a range of negative outcomes. The most prevalent consequence of such work is disturbed sleep, such as shortened sleep duration or difficulty falling asleep. It is also associated with extreme fatigue, excessive sleepiness and insomnia. While it was once believed that shift workers adapt to their night work schedule, recent studies show that less than three percent of permanent night workers completely adapt to their night work.
Health effects of shift work include a 40 percent increased risk for cardiovascular disease, an increased risk for peptic ulcer disease and an increased risk for breast cancer. Studies also suggest that shift work is responsible for metabolic disturbances and poor mental health.
The studies also show that shift work has been shown to significantly increase workers’ risks for work-related accidents. Because approximately 55 percent of petroleum workers work nights on a regular or frequent basis, accident rates within the industry are outstanding. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent findings, approximately 120 work-related deaths occur in the industry each year. The number of non-fatal injuries range from as low as 2,400 to as high as 4,700 a year. Accidents often result from falls, falling objects, getting caught in machinery, exposure to harmful substances and slips and falls.