We all know that traditional work patterns are changing in the twenty-first century. As Dolly Parton put it nearly 40 years ago: ‘working 9-5, what a way to make a living’. As well as more flexible working practices such as home working, night shifts are becoming ever more frequent. Many individuals tend to favour this style of working as an alternative to early morning starts, crowded commutes and sometimes lower pay rates. Yet one important consideration is that night shift workers may of course also be lone workers. So it becomes ever more vital for organisations to ensure their employees are protected if they work during unsocial hours.
Who are the night shift workers?
The UK government defines night workers as those who regularly work at least 3 hours during the ‘night period’. This covers the hours between 11pm and 6am, unless the worker and employer agree a different night period. Maximum weekly hours and rest breaks apply to a night shift, just as they do for daytime work. Additionally, workers cannot work more than an average of 8 hours in a 24-hour period. And there are specific rules for ‘sleep-in’ night shifts – not least that the worker must be given somewhere suitable to sleep.
A report by the TUC published in October 2018 detailed the numbers of night shift workers in the UK. Britain’s night-time workforce numbers 3.1 million, and increased by some 150,000 in the five years from 2013 to 2018. In terms of gender of night workers, men still outnumber women (1.9 million men to 1.3 million women), although women accounted for more of the increase.
Night shifts are generally more frequent in specific sectors of the economy, and particular job roles. These include health and social care, emergency services, security, logistics and transportation, wholesale and retail trade, and hospitality. There’s still a gender split here too; caring and nursing roles dominate for women, against road transport driving and protective services for men.
Keeping lone workers safe from night shift attacks
Despite the benefits that many night workers enjoy, they are often more at risk of attacks, theft, anti-social behaviour and other dangerous incidents than day workers. Night workers often carry out their shift alone and this can leave them vulnerable and exposed. Retail and transport workers are two groups of lone workers who are at heightened risk during evenings and nights.
It’s vital for employers to support night shift lone workers to keep them safe during their shifts. For the workers themselves, there are some good practices which will help to protect them. First off, share information. Make sure at least one other person knows of your whereabouts, the time you start your shift and the time you finish.
Even more than during the daytime, night shift lone workers need to be aware of what is happening around them. Lone workers should stay alert and take note of any changes happening, such as customers entering the space who are acting suspiciously or aggressively. Attackers are less likely to target a lone worker if they appear confident; it’s best to respond to threats by trying to stay calm, keeping movements slow and measured. Additionally, attacks are less likely to escalate if the night shift lone worker knows how to defuse aggression, so providing training could be crucial.
Night shift lone workers and Safe Hub
One of the best ways of employers supporting their night shift lone workers is a comprehensive safety system such as Safe Hub. It works on a range of dedicated devices, and smartphone, laptop, desktop and mobile apps. Whether the lone worker is on the road or in the care home, we’ll provide a variety of safety features which covers every eventuality.
Our Alarm Receiving Centres (ARC) stand ready to help lone workers 24/7. We can set specific enhanced escalation protocols for night workers, so that the ARC can get emergency help to them as quickly as possible. For a Red Alert which the lone worker triggers, we can get them police or ambulance services more quickly than dialling 999. And should the lone worker become incapacitated, the ARC will respond to a Worker Down automated response to get the right services to them. The worker can even signal that all is going according to plan using Safe Check, to provide a proactive welfare check throughout their night shift.
We can make night shift lone working safer together with employers. That way, when lone workers do come home, they can sleep soundly even during the day.