What are Night Worker health assessments and why are they necessary?

The Working Time Directive Regulations 1998 require employers to identify those employees who work long hours or shift patterns. Under the Working Time Regulations 1998, employers are required to ensure that workers are fit for night work and must offer a free health assessment to anyone who is about to start working nights and to all night workers on a regular basis.

A night worker is someone who works at least three hours during the ‘night’. The night period is 11pm to 6am, unless the worker and employer agree a different night period. If they do, it must be 7 hours long and include midnight to 5am.

Night workers’ average hours are calculated over one of the following reference periods:

  • rolling periods of 17 weeks
  • successive 17-week periods, if agreed and written in a relevant agreement
  • if the worker has worked for fewer than 17 weeks, the period that has passed since they started work.

The purpose of a Night Worker Health Assessment is to determine whether an employee is medically fit to undertake night work or has any underlying conditions that may be affected by the employee working nights.

Most Night Workers’ assessments are paper-based health questionnaires that are reviewed by an Occupational Health Adviser on an annual basis. If required, a referral for a telephone or face-to-face consultation might be advised.

 

Frequently asked questions

Do employees have to have a night worker health assessment?

Employees do not have to accept a health assessment, and a record will be kept of the dates when assessments were offered (if an employee did not want one). Night workers have the option to decline to complete the assessment. However, you must make sure it is still offered the following year, even if they have previously declined.

Why are night worker health assessments necessary?

  • Irregular hours of work and work patterns that include night and early morning shifts can lead to disruption of the internal body clock, sleeping difficulties and fatigue.
  • If workers are fatigued, they will be less alert, their reaction time will be slower, they will find it harder to concentrate, and they may make poor decisions. This can lead to accidents and injuries.
  • There are certain medical conditions that may require regular medication administration, and this may be difficult to administer when working shifts/nightwork.
  • Some employees may require workplace adjustments.

What do night worker assessments cover?

The assessment asks employees to declare any current medical problems and treatment they are receiving. They are also asked specifically about past medical history and, in particular, medical conditions which could be impacted by working at night, such as epilepsy or diabetes.

Assessments also include lifestyle factors that can impact night work, such as alcohol intake and sleep patterns.

How long does a night worker health assessment take?

Most Night Workers’ Assessments are paper Questionnaires and will normally take 20 minutes to complete.

What happens after the assessment is completed?

Once a paper assessment has been completed, it will be assessed by an Occupational Health Adviser (OHA), who will then determine if further face-to-face or telephone assessment is required.

If a referral to a clinician is advised, then it would normally last approximately 30 – 60 minutes.

At that appointment the clinician will conduct a full assessment asking about the medical issues declared on the paper form. They will then determine if the employee is fit to continue working at night or advise on any adjustments that may be required in order for the employee to continue with night work.

A night worker assessment should be offered annually; however, if something is declared and assessed by a doctor or nurse as requiring closer monitoring, then it may be advised that they are seen sooner than one year.

Call us today and take the first step to a safer night work environment.