Guide to night worker health assessment
Providing night worker health assessments is a legal obligation for all employers in the UK who have night workers. Night workers, also known as shift workers or those working non-traditional hours, face unique challenges when it comes to maintaining their health and well-being.
Night work has been associated with several health issues, including sleep disturbances, digestive problems, cardiovascular disease, and an increased risk of workplace accidents. These health issues can lead to decreased productivity and increased absenteeism, which can negatively impact your business.
Workers who regularly work at least 3 hours during a ‘night period’ are night workers. A ‘night period’ is 11pm to 6am, unless the worker and employer agree a different time.
Working Time Regulations 1998
The Working Time Regulations also regulate the working hours of night workers, setting limits on the average number of night hours worked per week and ensuring that night workers receive regular health assessments.
Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 also require employers to carry out a risk assessment for employees who regularly use display screen equipment (including computers) as a significant part of their normal work. If an employee is considered a “night worker,” this risk assessment must consider the impact of working at night on their health and safety.
What do night worker assessments cover?
The health assessment should consider the specific health risks associated with night work, such as sleep disturbance, and assess whether the worker is capable of performing their job safely and without harm to their health.
If the health assessment identifies a problem, the employer must take appropriate action to address it, such as adjusting the worker’s hours or duties.
One of the primary goals of a night worker health assessment is to identify any potential health risks and provide recommendations for addressing them. For example, if an individual is experiencing sleep disturbances, the assessment may recommend changes to their sleep environment, such as using blackout curtains or a white noise machine, or suggest ways to improve their sleep hygiene, such as avoiding caffeine and electronics before bed.
How to implement night worker health assessments?
There are several ways to implement a night worker health assessment program. The Health and Safety Executive provides guidance to employers on conducting risk assessments for night workers, which should consider factors such as lighting levels, noise levels, temperature, and workload.
You can send health questionnaires to employees yourself, however, the Office of the Information Commissioner advises special category medical information should only be processed by a medical professional.
Partnering with an occupational health provider is the quickest and easiest way to implement a night worker health assessment programme. There’s more information about our service available on our website too.
Some employers choose to provide the assessments on-site, although the law says that offering a questionnaire every year is enough to fulfil your obligations.
Employers must keep records of night workers’ working hours, to show they are not exceeding the limits. The records must be kept for at least 2 years.
Repeat assessments must be offered regularly, which most employers interpret as annually. An employer must offer suitable alternative work where possible if a worker has health problems that a doctor says are related to night work.