Shift work

a sleeping woman

Zoom Image

Source: © Fotowerk Fotolia

Many employees in sectors such as healthcare, commerce and the hotel and catering trade earn their living in a world of 24-hour work and service, with economic and social changes increasingly pushing their working hours into evenings, nights and weekends. Shift work has a wide range of effects on the employees involved. Shift workers – and in particular night-shift workers – often suffer from sleep disorders, as their daily rhythm continues to be primarily determined by factors such as daylight, social contact and family circumstances. Sleep disorders also lead to a range of non-specific effects on human health including lack of concentration, nervous tension, premature tiredness, loss of appetite and stomach complaints. In addition, various epidemiological studies discuss whether or not shift work contributes to the development of cardiovascular diseases, breast cancer and mental disorders. The potential implications of shift work are manifold, and the three DGUV research institutes therefore engage in particularly close cooperation in this field.

The health-related consequences of shift work are the primary focus at the Institute for Prevention and Occupational Medicine (IPA), whilst examination of shift work systems and means of influencing the risk of accident is the main area of emphasis at the Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (IFA). Research at the Institute of Work and Health (IAG) focuses on the effect of shift work on the sleep and social lives of employees.

A recent joint project saw the three institutes consolidate current knowledge in the field of shift work and draw up recommendations on good practice. It also involved the identification of areas where research and action is required and the communication thereof to the German social accident insurance institutions. The report presenting the results of the joint project is available to download here (German language only).

Health effects
Dr. Sylvia Rabstein
Institut für Prävention und Arbeitsmedizin der DGUV
Institut der Ruhr-Universität-Bochum (IPA)
Kompetenz-Zentrum Epidemiologie
Telefon: 0234 302-4595
Dr. med. Dirk Pallapies
Institut für Prävention und Arbeitsmedizin der DGUV
Institut der Ruhr-Universität-Bochum (IPA)
Stabsstelle Regulation
Telefon: 0234 302-4519
Dr. Frank Bochmann
Institut für Arbeitsschutz der DGUV (IFA)
Fachbereich 1 - Leitung angewandte Epidemiologie
Telefon: 02241 231-2762
Advanced training and consultation as well as mental stress
Dr. Hanna Zieschang
Institut für Arbeit und Gesundheit  der DGUV (IAG)
Bereich "Arbeitsgestaltung - Demografie"
Tel: 0351 457-1610
Christian Pangert
Abteilung Sicherheit und Gesundheit (SiGe)
Referat "Arbeitsbedingte Gesundheitsgefahren"
Telefon: 089 62272-210


Dr. Sylvia Rabstein
Institute for Prevention and Occupational Medicine of the German Social Accident Insurance
Tel.: +49 30 13001-4213

Dr. Hanna Zieschang
Institute for Work and Health of the German Social Accident Insurance
Tel: +49 30 13001-2240