Cross Posted From: http://safetyphoenix.blogspot.com
High gasoline prices last year and the economic down-turn this year are affecting both employees and businesses. Doing more with less in an already Lean environment as well as the rising costs of material and general overhead has number of businesses considering going to a four day work week. As part of this consideration, the effect on employee safety must be considered.
While survey results so far show that generally employees are more satisfied with the 4 day schedule, the long term effects of near miss accidents, reportable and lost time injury rates have yet to be assessed. Keep in mind that lengthening the time employees perform heavy labor contributes to muscle fatigue. Granted employees will generally have an extra day to recuperate. However, the length of time between the day to day labor may not be enough to properly remove lactic acid build up – one cause of overexertion injuries.
Many manufacturing companies' demands are also cyclical. What happens when the demand increases and the needs of 4 ten hour days are not enough to meet those demands? Generally companies will offer over-time during these periods. If you add another hour or two to the beginning or end of the shift, the lactic acid buildup will be greater. Extending the week to include overtime on Friday may not leave enough time for recuperation, especially if your employees tend to be active on their other days off.
Some progressive companies have hired ergonomic professionals in the past to help them determine recommended lifting requirements of specific jobs. Adding an extra two hours to a shift may lower those recommended weight limits. See yesterday's post for more on lifting requirements.
I would be the first to appreciate a four day work week and the last to tell you not to do it. However, the possible detrimental costs of increased injuries, must be assessed along with economic considerations.