Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Increased risk of work injury among female shift workers is greateramong those with dependent children at home

Peter and JihanMany previous studies have highlighted the risk of work-injury among the labour force working non-daytime shift schedules.  More recently studies have reported that the work injury risks associated with shift work may be higher among women than men.  To date however, very little, if any, research has examined if this difference is due to gender differences among men and women.

A recent study completed by researchers at the Monash Centre of Occupational and Environmental Health, examined the elevated risk of work injury among shift working women compared to shift working men, taking into account the presence of dependent children.  The study, which is due to be published in the August issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, tested the hypothesis that the risk of injury would be higher among shift working women with dependent children, given they likely have increased childcare responsibilities outside of work (compared to shift working men, or women without dependent children).  The pathway though which having dependent children would increase risk of injury is through decreased time for recovery and sleep outside of work.

The study, which used data from the 2009–2010 Multipurpose Household Survey (n = 6927 women and 7340 men) found clear differences in the effects of shift work observed for women with dependent children, compared to both males with dependent children and women without dependent children.  These finding highlight challenges specific to shift working women, who still are likely to have increased responsibilities outside of work.

Primary work injury prevention strategies targeting shift workers need to consider important gender differences in the non-work responsibilities of shift workers in their design.  The study was led by Associate Professor Peter Smith and the authorship team included Jihan Ibrahim-Dost who contributed to the literature review, study hypotheses and analysis plan while participating in the SPHPM Summer Vacation Program.

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