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Work/rest cycles in railroad operations: effects of shorter than 24-h shift work schedules and on-call schedules on sleep

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The current study examined the frequency with which shorter than 24-h work/rest cycles occur in locomotive engineer work schedules, and what effects these work/rest cycles had on sleep quantity and sleep quality. The results indicated that shorter than 24-h work/rest cycles occurred in 33.6% of the work days reported by 198 locomotive engineers. In addition, the shorter than 24-h work/rest cycles occurred more frequently in work schedules that created an on-call work system, such as road pool turn and extra board assignments, than in work schedules that used more predictable or regular work times, such as regular road assignments and yard/local work. As would be expected, when engineers worked shorter than 24-h work/rest cycles, they reported less sleep and poorer sleep than under the longer than 24-h work/rest cycles. Similarly, on-call work assignments resulted in less sleep and poorer sleep than regular work assignments. These results indicate that specific aspects of the work schedules used in railroad operations, particularly on-call operations that result in shorter than 24-h work/rest cycles, can lead to increased sleep-related problems. Although the North American railroad industry is making significant changes in on-call operations to minimize sleep-related problems from on-call schedules, better fatigue-related models validated within the railroad industry are needed.
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Keywords: IRREGULAR SHIFTS; ON-CALL SCHEDULES; RAILROAD ENGINEERS; SHIFT WORK; SLEEP QUALITY; SLEEP QUANTITY

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2000-05-01

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