Fire EMS

The 24-Hour Shift: Impact on Health and Safety

Issue 5 and Volume 160.

The history of shift work in America can be traced back to the beginnings of the industrial revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries. Factory owners realized that they could maximize production by keeping machinery running 24 hours a day. It was this relentless drive nearly 200 years ago that made the United States an economic superpower. The origins of shift work in the fire service (and eventually EMS) were born out of necessity, as opposed to monetary gain. In cities with populations large enough to have paid crews, it made sense from a public safety standpoint to have people occupying the station at all times. Although some departments rotated crews on an eight- or 12-hour basis, many others chose to work 24-hour shifts, especially when call volumes allowed for adequate rest. Some large-city departments are so busy that they’ve never used a 24-hour shift rotation or haven’t done so…

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