The consequences of non-standard work hours for sleep and sleepiness are well known. Relatively however, the impact of poorly timed and or inadequate sleep in combination with other workplace factors is poorly understood. For example, exposure to workplace hazards, such as dust, solvents, and fumes, has the potential to adversely affect the health of all workers. However, the effects of workplace hazards on health may differ when exposure occurs at different times in the circadian cycle, and among people who work longer hours or who do not obtain adequate sleep. Our aim was to document exposure to workplace hazards across a national sample of New Zealanders, comparing people who work a standard 08:00 −17:00 h Monday-to-Friday working week (Std hours) and those who do not (N-Std hours). Between 2004 and 2006, 10, 000 New Zealanders aged 20–64 yrs were randomly selected to take part in a nationwide telephone survey of workplace exposures. Participants were asked demographic questions as well as detailed information on the current or most recent job (including exposures to a range of workplace hazards), sleep, sleepiness, and health status. 22.2% (n =656) were categorised as working N-Std hours. Our results show that New Zealanders working N-Std hours are more likely to be exposed to hazards in the workplace, to be exposed to multiple hazards, and to report inadequate sleep and excessive sleepiness than their colleagues working a standard 08:00−17:00 h Monday-to-Friday working week. More research is needed on the effects of exposure to hazardous substances outside the usual waking day, on the effects of exposure to multiple hazards, and on the combination of hazard exposure, sleep restriction and/or poorly timed sleep as a result of shift work.
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