Monday 22 February 2010

The 4am Project

 clip_image002Looking at the Holdthefrontpage website this morning, I came across an appeal for photographers to photograph their part of the world at 4am on 4 April 2010.  This sounds like a great idea and I will be interested to see what the results are.

The Holdthefrontpage article can be found on:

The 4am Project can be found on:

Here are some pictures from the website:



Friday 19 February 2010

Life Stories

Looking through the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) website,  I came across the story of Michael Clarke, a night porter at Langdale Leisure in Cumbria, which is as follows:

“I just want to keep going in my job”

clip_image001 In 14 years, Michael Clarke never had a day off sick from work. But after having a heart attack in 2007, he was forced to take four months sick leave. At the age of 69, Michael’s illness could have been the cue for him to retire. But it wasn’t. He was as determined as ever to continue working in his job as a Night Porter. He says: “I couldn’t become a couch potato. I enjoy my work and the variety it provides – no two nights are ever the same.”

Michael recovered from his heart attack and returned to work at the Langdale Hotel and Spa in the Lake District. Although he is based in the main hotel building, Michael actually has responsibility for 35 acres of property. The hotel is part of the Langdale estate and includes time share properties and self-catering accommodation. Michael’s duties are therefore not typical of most hotel Night Porters.


“It’s not an easy job” admits Anne Durnall, Human Resources Manager at Langdale.

She adds: “There’s a great deal of responsibility with the Night Porter job because you have to deal with emergencies that could arise such as fires, power cuts and so on.” Anne believes that Michael is the right person for the job because of his years of experience and his ‘intimate’ knowledge of the Langdale estate. She says: “Night Porters need to be reliable and trustworthy”.

These are qualities that she believes Michael brings to the job.

Whilst he was recovering from his heart attack, staff rotas were adjusted to cover Michael’s absence. Anne visited Michael at home while he recovered and with his consent also talked to his GP about how he could be supported at work after his heart attack. She was assured that once recovered, he would be able to resume the majority of his duties.

Staff are highly valued.

“Michael has been fine since he came back to work” says Anne, “it’s as if he’s never been away.” She adds: “People like Michael are part and parcel of Langdale’s rich tapestry and we want to keep them part of it.”

Overall staff retention at Langdale is good and Anne believes this is because their staff are highly valued. She also believes that there is a strong business case for retaining staff who become ill. “If somebody leaves, there are costs associated with employing someone new. You have to take time to recruit and train them. It costs money to find the right staff, so once we’ve found them we want to hang onto them”.

Message to other employers:

Don’t prejudge the health condition of staff and don’t prejudge what you think they can do.”

Anne Durnall, Human Resources Manager, Langdale Leisure.


clip_image001[5] In 1994, Michael made the switch from engineering to the hospitality industry. He spent forty years working as an engineer in the laundry industry and worked all over the continent. When a friend told him about the vacancy at Langdale, he welcomed the opportunity to work closer to his home in Kendal. After a successful work trial, he was recruited as a Night Porter.

Michael’s role includes the usual security duties of a hotel Night Porter but also some administrative work. Promoting good customer relations is also an important part of his job, especially when dealing with emergencies.

The job is very stimulating.

“There are challenges to my job” says Michael, “sometimes we have awkward customers which I have to deal with but on the other hand I also get to meet people from all over the world which I like.” He adds: For a person of my age, the job is very stimulating for the brain. It’s almost like getting paid for therapy.”

Since his heart attack, the only minor adjustment Michael has had to make at work is to avoid moving and lifting heavy furniture. Langdale were happy to make these changes to his duties.

Michael takes a great deal of pride in his job and since his heart attack he has been more determined than ever to continue working. He says: “I just want to be the best I can be at my job and to keep going as long as I can.”

Sunday 17 January 2010

Looking After Yourself

Sleeping Tips


There are even songs about shiftwork, although I have no idea what The Fall are singing about...

Saturday 16 January 2010

Sleeping Patterns

The following are the sleep/wake patterns of a person who works days and who has no sleep-related problems, compared with those of a shiftworker.

Normal Sleeper
A normal sleeper

Shift WorkA shiftworker’s sleep

In the normal sleeper, you can see all brain and physical activity is much less at night than it is during the day and is also regular, happening at the same time every night.  However, with the shiftworker, his brain/body activity is very strong at night he doesn't get regular rest and his sleep patterns are disrupted.

Shiftwork and Health

The following is my Literature Review on Shiftwork and Health.
Our 24-hour society means that shift work is becoming more common and a higher number people are now working outside the ‘normal’ hours of nine to five. In addition to the 24-hour emergency services available to us, we now experience round-the-clock services such as banking, transport and shopping. Many people benefit from this, but there have been suggestions that the people who provide these services are putting their health and well-being at risk.
Parkes (nd:3) found that shift work had been linked to a variety of diseases and her research revealed that disruption of circadian rhythms (24-hour body clock) led to disturbed sleep, which could further lead to family problems and stress and that increased smoking, poor diet and irregular meals could also be a contributing factor to poor health. Additionally, Finn's (1981:31) findings indicated that shift work could create health problems in workers', as well as problems in family life, social life and safety in the workplace. Similarly, Saskatchewan Labor (1998:3) state that shift workers' irregular patterns of eating, sleeping, working and socialising could lead to health and social problems.
Finn’s (198:32) research found that fatigue was the most commonly encountered and upsetting reaction shift workers experience from sleep deprivation. Saskatchewan Labor (1998:4) explain that our bodies have a 24 hour ‘biological clock’ (the circadian rhythm) which tells it when to sleep and when to wake up. Sunlight and darkness regulate this clock. They add that darkness triggers changes in the body that lead to sleep and when falling asleep, the body’s blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate and temperature drop and digestion slows down. So, when working during normal ‘sleep hours’, Saskatchewan Labor (1998:4) state that the body’s ability to digest food, rest, restore and repair itself will be disturbed and may affect a person’s sense of well-being.

Parkes (nd:4) discovered that disturbed sleep is an outcome of the disruption to normal circadian rhythms and her studies concluded that problems were caused by a mismatch between the need to be awake during night hours and sleeping during the day. Likewise, Finn (1981:32) states that the disturbance of these circadian rhythms contributes to physical and emotional problems. Parkes’ (nd:4) and Finn’s (1981:32) research revealed that shift worker’s sleep is often disturbed by domestic and traffic noise and unavoidable light and heat, which occur during the day.


Parkes (nd:5) states that gastrointestinal complaints, such as indigestion, heartburn, constipation, loss of appetite and nausea, are frequent among shift workers and are more common among night shift workers than those working during the day. What is more, Saskatchewan Labor’s (1998:5) research showed similar findings and they suggested reasons for this, such as over- or under-eating, relying on high-fat snack foods and drinking more coffee to stay alert at night, increasing the risk of developing ulcers. Finn’s (1981:32) research also revealed that loss of appetite and irregular eating habits are a common occurrence among shift workers which could lead to weight loss and nutritional deficiency. However, Finn (1981:32) also discovered that there was conflicting evidence regarding matter.

Parkes (nd:6) discovered that shift workers are more at risk of cardiovascular disease and Saskatchewan Labor's (1998:6) findings suggested the same, but that the way in which shift work affected the heart was not made clear. Saskatchewan Labor (1998:6) do, however, suggest that these cardiovascular problems may, in some way, be caused by the altered eating habits and disrupted sleep patterns, reduced physical activity and smoking.
Parkes (nd:7) research revealed that there is a connection between working nights and developing breast cancer and her report suggests the reason for this is because of the reduced production of melatonin during the night which is thought to lead to an increase in reproductive hormones which increase the hormone-sensitive cells in the breast.
Saskatchewan Labor (1998:7) reported that asthma, diabetes, epilepsy and depression could be made worse by shift work and Parkes’ (nd:7-8) research revealed that there was evidence linking shift work to premature births, miscarriages, low birth weight and irregular menstruation. Saskatchewan Labor’s (1998:7) research concurs with Parkes’ findings.
Working shifts also affects work performance. Saskatchewan Labor’s (1998:7) stated that most night workers complained of sleepiness and sometimes fell asleep at work. They explain that working extended shifts could cause poor performance and decreased alertness. This reduced alertness, can also cause accidents at work. Parkes’ (nd:8) evidence suggested that work-related fatalities were more than twice as likely at night as during the day. However her research found no evidence of elevated rates of minor accidents during night work. Finn’s (1981:33) research also showed that workers on night shifts made more mistakes than day shift employees and Saskatchewan Labor’s (1998:3) add that these higher accident and injury rates have not been clearly linked to shift work because shift work is only one of many factors contributing to accidents and injuries. Interestingly, as a result of her research, Parkes (nd:8) discovered that the disasters of Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and the Challenger space shuttle all occurred during the night.
Another risk to employees working at night is that of violence, which Saskatchewan Labor’s (1998:8) research bears out. They state that some night workers work alone at night and they may be more vulnerable to violence from customers, residents and inmates.
Working nights often means that shift workers cannot participate in family and social activities. Finn’s (1981:32) research indicates that shift workers experience more family-related problems than daytime employees as the time they spend with their families are severely curtailed by their hours of work. Parkes’ (nd:5) findings revealed chronic fatigue and the disruption of family life might contribute to anxiety and depression.
There are, however, strategies that can be implemented to improve working conditions for shift workers. Parkes’ (10) research suggests that if employers pay attention to rest breaks, workload and aspects of the physical environment, and that if shift workers adapted a regular sleep routine, avoiding caffeine and alcohol prior to sleep, adopting a healthy diet, for example, they may lessen the negative effects of shift work. Saskatchewan Labor’s (1998:8) report suggested that employers ensure that workloads could work together to identify and control shift work hazards, including adjusting workloads to prevent boredom, limiting shift work to essential jobs and allowing adequate meal and rest breaks. Additionally, Saskatchewan Labor (1998:13) recommend workers be told how to control and minimise the effects of shift work themselves by eating nutritious meals regularly and maintaining physical fitness.
This research has revealed the possible connection between working shifts and developing health and social problems. The effects of shift work will differ from individual to individual, but the evidence is logical and persuasive. Taken as a whole, it appears that although 24-hour working is advantageous for industry and society, shift workers can suffer serious problems through working at night, and that employers and employees can work together to improve conditions at work to help to reduce these problems.
  • Finn, P (1981) Effects of Shiftwork on Lives of Employees. Monthly Labor Review, 31-35
  • Parkes, K (undated) Shiftwork and Health, University of Oxford, 1-15
    Saskatchewan Labor (1998), Managing Shiftwork, Occupational Health and Safety, 3-16