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Safety at Workplace



Hours of work


Time spent at work

The number of hours of work and the way those hours are organised can significantly affect the day-to-day life of the worker. It is essential the workers have free time for rest and leisure. The number of hours worked is one of the principal demands of a job.

The arrangement of working time, including shift and night work, allowance for seasonal changes, family duties, training, and commuting problems, is also important. The basic hours of work are usually fixed by law. These hours of work may be further limited by agreements between employers and workers.

The actual hours worked often differ from this normal duration, since overtime can be added. If the hours of work are too long or their arrangement is inappropriate, they can influence health and safety, the degree of strain and fatigue and the quality of working life in general.

Normal hours of work

Normal hours can be fixed in terms of the day or of the week. Working beyond normal hours constitutes overtime or exceptions. The traditional legal limits are eight hours per day and 48 hours per week. Many countries now prescribe lower limits.

As for the length of the working day, normal hours of eight or less are well established in many countries. In special circumstances, such as shift work, hotels and transport, or in flexible working hours, the working day on particular days can exceed the limit of eight hours. The introduction of a five-day work week may sometimes make it unavoidable to work ma than eight hours on at least some of the working days.

Overtime work

The hours worked in excess of normal hours is called as overtime. If the normal weekly hours are not exceeded, hours worked on a certain day excess of the normal daily limit are, in some cases, also regarded as overtime. When overtime is frequent and substantial, the resulting long actual hours of work may affect the health, safety and well-being.

Overtime usually means not only longer hours but also higher rates of pay. For the enterprise, overtime work may be needed for the organisation of some preparatory, seasonal emergency work or for economic reasons. Problems arise when overtime becomes the rather than the exception, which involves substantial additions to wages. These higher earnings are advantageous to individual workers. Frequent overtime has other disadvantages, including unstable earnings and adverse health and safety effects. Thus there may be a need to reduce or limit overtime.

Excessive hours of work

This can be caused by :
  • Seasonal concentration of work.
  • Intermittent work being spread over long work days, as in road transport.
  • Labour shortages, especially of skilled or specialised workers.
  • Weak or difficult enforcement control.
Effects of long hours work on workers are :
  • Excessive strain and fatigue, both physical and mental.
  • Poor quality of work and increases in errors.
  • Increased numbers of accidents.
  • Insufficient sleep, in some cases associated with difficulty in sleeping and possible use of drugs.
  • Decreased resistance to illness, often leading to early ageing.
  • Disturbances in family life or social activities.

These negative effects of long hours may be compounded by extreme climate, poor hygienic or safety conditions, malnutrition, poor general health, poor housing conditions, lack of public social services, long commuting distances and over-burdened transport facilities.


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