Police officers on the third shift run a higher risk of injury due to inherent hazards and exhaustion, though there are measures they can take to adapt.
In early May this year, three New York police officers suffered injuries in two separate incidents overnight in Harlem. According to the New York Post, two of the officers were injured after a crash involving their cruiser. Just an hour earlier, an officer was taken to St. Luke's Hospital with back pain.
Studies show that injuries on the third shift are more common than any other, as police officers face increasingly hazardous conditions when night falls. Understanding the risks as well as what to do following these accidents may help officers prevent physical and financial problems.
How often it happens
Researchers at the University of Buffalo determined that police officers who work the night shift have an increased risk of experiencing a long-term work injury. Taking a look at 419 officers from 1994 to 2009, scientists examined how frequently injuries occurred as well as how long participants had to take time off work.
The study found that the risk of suffering an injury that led to more than 90 days off work was three times higher for officers on the night shift than those on the day shift. Third-shift officers also were found to have more than twice the risk of such injuries when compared to second-shift officers.
The cause of the problem
One of the main reasons that officers on the third shift are at a greater risk is that they tend to have more disruptive sleep. The American Psychological Association explains that working at night goes against the body's circadian clock, a natural rhythm that affects when hormones should be released as well as alertness. This is especially dangerous for people who work jobs in which split-second, life-saving decisions must be made. Exhaustion can lead to slower reaction times and affect someone's sense of logic.
The study from the University of Buffalo also found several explanations for the increased risk of injury, such as the following:
- Later shifts are more active than day and afternoon shifts.
- The calls tend to be more hazardous.
- Night shift workers tend to be younger and less experienced.
The APA points out that some officers rotate shifts, taking a night shift a few times a week and alternating them with day shifts. However, this can be even worse because sleep schedules do not have time to adjust.
How to adapt
Avoiding the night shift is not an option for many officers. In fact, as the APA notes, many seek out the third shift to earn overtime pay. In order to prevent workplace injuries, psychologists suggest that officers try to adjust their circadian clocks. Researchers have successfully shifted officers' natural rhythms by having them wear sunglasses on the drive in and out of work and through keeping the rooms where they sleep very dark. Workers may also try to go to bed as late as possible on nights off in an attempt to maintain their sleep schedules.
Police work is high-risk no matter which shift an officer takes. Suffering an on-the-job injury can be devastating, but it does not have to result in financial hardship. Anyone who has experienced a workplace injury should consult with an attorney to file for workers' compensation.
Keywords: workers' compensation, injury, job, benefits