Morson Human Resources provides a skilled workforce to the rail industry, including a full-time night team. They recognised that night workers face a different set of safety and welfare risks to their daytime counterparts. So, it made sense to think differently when developing support provisions for them. Here, Morson’s Compliance Manager sets out how they keep their night workers safe and well.
Why does it need to be different?
Anyone who has worked a night shift will tell you it’s a very different experience to working in the day. Research shows that working at night, when our body’s natural internal clock expects us to be asleep, puts stresses and strains on physical and mental wellbeing. Certain disorders are more prevalent such as stomach complaints, cardiovascular disorders and depression. Night working can make life difficult because it conflicts with normal family and social life, potentially creating domestic tensions and a feeling of social isolation. Wellbeing can be further affected by having to eat at night and lack of sunlight during winter months. And in many organisations, the support services for staff are primarily available in traditional day-time office hours.
What support does Morson give night workers?
We decided that we could eliminate some of the risks associated with moving from days to nights by employing a permanent night team. This helps workers avoid some of the physical and social disruption. We try as much as the work from the client permits to allocate shifts that are consistent, so our gangs typically work the same pattern every week, making planning their lives a little easier.
This approach also allowed us to put a support network in place which is open for business when our night team are working. We have a manned night office with operations managers and a health and safety team on site, working while the night team are working. Bi-weekly meetings and regular forums give workers a space to discuss any issues, and we run toolbox talks on common issues related to night working such as fatigue. We have several qualified Mental Health First Aiders on the night team, and our Safety Bus does night visits so our night staff can access the same support as their daytime colleagues. Morson’s occupational health provider is also there for us to call upon to assist where needed, for example with medication advice.
Support begins before our workers join us and continues throughout. We issue new workers with a Night Workers’ Health Questionnaire, and their responses flag up anything that needs further action from the Morson health and safety team. We give new team members a full induction and brief them on the relevant health policies and support they can access. Then, our operations managers and PWT (Protecting Workers on the Track) representatives carefully monitor new night workers to ensure they settle in.
Finally, we know night workers may be at greater risk of facing other experiences that require specialised support. For example, some of our night staff recently witnessed a stabbing incident between members of the public. They were all contacted and offered assistance from our employee assistant programme.
What advice would you give CIRAS members wanting to adopt your approach?
The most effective approach is to have a strong support team in place that can manage the operations and health and safety of the night team. A key challenge is ensuring that the arrangements follow legal requirements and best practice. A good place to start is to look at regulations and industry specific guidance such as the RISQS audit protocol and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website. Specific advice on night workers is also available from government sources such as the HSE and gov.uk websites.
It’s then important that the company has the resources and people in place to implement those systems. Consider appointing an occupational health provider (this could be the same centre you book any medicals with). Having the right management and support team is also essential. Your top management must be actively involved and buy in to what needs to be done.
A final challenge is to keep improving. It’s one thing coming up with a system and putting policies and procedures in place, but the key to success is to implement them and maintain over time. It’s important that you always seek to keep improving including keeping an eye on what is happening in the industry, for example with legislation.
For more information contact Russell Kimble at Russell.Kimble@morson.com.