Discuss the Consequences of Disrupting Biological Rhythms - e.g. in Shiftwork and Jetlag

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  1. Discuss the consequences of disrupting biological rhythms e.g. shiftwork and jetlag (16 marks)

There are two types of shiftwork. Fluctuating and non-fluctuating shiftwork differ in that in fluctuating shiftwork the worker’s shift is constantly changing. E.g., they will do an 11pm-7am shift one day, then the next day they will do 10pm-6am, etc. Non-fluctuating shitworkers do the same shift every night e.g., 12am-8am.

Some noteable disasters, e.g. the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island nuclear disasters, occurred because those at fault had been shiftworking and were not alert enough to notice problems. Yet approximately 20% of workers in industrial countries shiftwork. This has some potentially threatening consequences on the safety of the workplace and of civillians and the environment. It is estimated that approximately 20% of shiftworkers report falling asleep during work. This is particularly worrying for people such as lorry drivers, who could crash their vehicle and kill themselves and/or others. Apart from the disasters that could occur on the outside, internal problems also occur. Workers on night shifts have significantly higher rates of heart disease and diseases of the digestive system. Perhaps knowledge of this is not widespread – and makes the issue of shitworking an ethical issue. Take workers in underdeveloped countries such as Taiwan. There is already criticism of the exploitation of workers for low wages, but awareness has not been raised of the possible health problems these people may be suffering as a result of shitwork, and the consequences of this – maybe they will die earlier. This is even more unethical exploitation.

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Czeisler et al (1982) came up with the idea of a phase delay rotation pattern, whereby the shift pattern rotates every 21 days in a forwards direction. Thus the worker’s schedule begins later in the day every 21 days. Czeisler had studied shiftworkers and argued that a phase delay rotation pattern brings increased benefits to workers end employers, e.g., health improvement, greater production and fewer accidents in the workplace.

Jet lag, also known as desynchronosis, is a condition in the short term caused by (usually air) travel across several time zones in a short period of time. The ...

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