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Can workers doing 16-hour shifts be safe?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the average American workday remains at eight hours as of 2022. Even still, there are many industries in which workers are on the clock for much more than the average hours.

Working long, demanding shifts, such as 16-hour workdays, is a reality for healthcare professionals, emergency responders and shift workers in manufacturing and transportation. When it comes to working so many hours, the question that arises is whether it is possible for these workers to remain safe and productive.

Regular breaks and rest

One of the key factors in maintaining safety during long shifts is the provision of regular breaks and rest periods. This allows workers to recharge, both mentally and physically, reducing the risk of fatigue-related accidents or errors.

Well-defined work schedules

Having clear work schedules that outline shift rotations, breaks and rest days can contribute to safety for those working long hours. It helps workers plan their rest and ensures they have adequate time to recover between shifts.

Training and awareness

Employers should provide training on fatigue management and raise awareness about its potential dangers. This training equips employees with strategies to combat fatigue and recognize the signs of exhaustion.

Ergonomic workstations

In environments where employees work long hours, employers need to provide ergonomic workstations and equipment to reduce physical strain and the risk of injury.

Proper nutrition and hydration

Encouraging healthy eating habits and staying hydrated helps with sustaining energy levels and cognitive function during extended shifts. Employers can provide access to nutritious snacks and hydration stations.

Sleep facilities

For workers with extended shifts, it may be helpful if employers provide facilities where the employees can take short naps during breaks. A brief nap can improve alertness and concentration.

Rotation of tasks

To prevent monotony and excessive mental fatigue, rotating tasks can be beneficial. This helps maintain focus and engagement during long shifts.


Promoting open lines of communication allows workers to report any concerns about safety and fatigue. Supervisors should be receptive to these concerns and take appropriate action.

Monitoring and accountability

Implementing systems to monitor work hours and ensure compliance with rest and break regulations is essential. Accountability for both employers and employees helps enforce safety protocols.

While working 16-hour shifts can be challenging, it is possible to maintain safety with the right precautions and strategies in place. Employers and employees share the responsibility for ensuring safe working conditions during extended hours.