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Long shifts raise risk of injury, need for workers' compensation

Working long shifts might be good for a person's paycheck, but bad for one's safety. Unfortunately, not many people realize the negative impact that longer shifts can have on their health and well-being. A recent study examined how long shifts and inadequate training impact the risk of injury among miners, although the information could potentially also be applied toward Illinois workers in other industries who need help securing workers' compensation.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago carefully analyzed approximately 546,000 worker injury reports in the mining industry that were filed from 1983 to 2015. Of those that were injured, an average of 9.6% had been working for nine hours or longer. However, the effects of long shift work changed over time. In 1983, only 5.5% of injured workers had pulled long shifts on the day they were hurt. In 2015, that percentage jumped to 13.9%, and miners working long shifts had a 32% higher chance of experiencing a work-related fatality.

So why is the problem getting worse? Despite having improved technology and decades of information behind them, the mining industry frequently requires miners to work more and more extended-hour shifts. There has also been an increase in hiring less-experienced contract workers who have insufficient training. These workers are perhaps more likely to cause accidents that lead to other miners suffering injuries. The report from the University of Illinois also found that working longer hours increased a miners risk for being involved in a multi-person work accident by 73%.

Workplace safety is an important issue that all employers should take seriously. And yet many Illinois employers continue to schedule their workers for long shifts that compromise their safety. When workers are injured as a result of these actions, workers' compensation can be an important bridge to recovery.

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