Shift plan

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The shift plan or rota is the central component of a shift schedule in shift work.[1] The schedule includes considerations of shift overlap, shift change times and alignment with the clock, vacation, training, shift differentials, holidays, etc. The shift plan determines the sequence of work (W) and free (F) days within a shift system. A notation used often identifies day (D), swing (S) and night (N) shifts for the W days and O (off) for rest days.

W
work days
D
day shift, 1st shift
This shift often occurs from 07:00 to 15:00 for eight-hour shifts, and from 06:00 to 18:00 for twelve-hour shifts.
S
swing shift, 2nd shift
This shift often occurs from 15:00 to 23:00 for eight-hour shifts, and is not used with twelve-hour shifts.
N
night shift, 3rd shift, graveyard shift
This shift often occurs from 23:00 to 07:00 for eight-hour shifts, and from 18:00 to 06:00 for twelve-hour shifts.
F
free days
O
days off
This is defined as a day on which a shift does not begin.

Note that a worker transitioning from N to O works for the first six or seven hours of the first day "off". Thus, when days off follow night shifts, the first one or more days "off" are, in fact, days of recovery from lack of nighttime sleep. Note also that this daily notation refers to the start of a shift. If a shift starts at 23:00, then this is a W day even though only one hour is worked. The day after this shift is an F day if no shift starts on this day, though many hours have been worked from midnight on.

One shift system may allow many shift plans. For example, the twelve-hour, 2nW:2nF system with n = 1 allows twelve different plans in three serially-identical sets. Within a set, DONO has the same sequence as NODO. DNOO is the preferred sequence because days off follow night work and there are two consecutive days off.

3-day shift plans[edit]

The US Navy uses a three shift system with an 18-hour day instead of a 24-hour day. The 24-hour period is divided into four shifts: 00:00-06:00, 06:00-12:00, 12:00-18:00, and 18:00-00:00. A sailor stands watch on their shift. During the off shift there is time to perform maintenance, study for qualifications and handle collateral duties. During off time the sailor has time to sleep, relax, and perform personal tasks, such as laundry.

This does not apply to the attached air wing, which will work a 12 on, 12 off schedule 7 days a week.

Navy three-shift example
Time Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
on watch off AW on watch off AW on watch off AW on watch off AW on watch off AW on watch off AW on watch off AW
00:00–06:00 A B C D C A B D B C A D A B C D C A B D B C A D A B C D
06:00–12:00 C A B D B C A D A B C D C A B D B C A D A B C D C A B D
12:00–18:00 B C A E A B C E C A B E B C A E A B C E C A B E B C A E
18:00–24:00 A B C E C A B E B C A E A B C E C A B E B C A E A B C E
Plan Run 1 Run 2 Run 3

Submarine sailors in the US Navy use a plan known as sixes while underway. The ship operates on an 18-hour schedule. An individual is scheduled to stand watch for 6 hours, perform any other duties and engage in leisure time for 6 hours, then sleep for 6 hours. With sufficient personnel, a given watchstation may benefit from a fourth man (the midnight cowboy). He will stand the same 6-hour watch in a given 24-hour period, usually from midnight to 06:00 (hence themidnight portion of the name, often shortened to cowboy) and the normal watchstander is free. This gives rise to a schedule of six on, twelve off, six on, thirty off, six on, twelve off.

4-day shift plans[edit]

In the 12/24/12/48 or 12/24 plan, employees work in shifts of 12 hours; first a "daily shift" (e.g. 06:00 to 18:00), followed by 24 hours rest, then a "nightly shift" (18:00 to 06:00), finishing with 48 hours rest. This plan needs four teams for full coverage, and makes an average 42-hour workweek. The pattern repeats in a 4-week cycle, i.e. over 28 days, and has 14 shifts per employee therein.

12/24/12/48 shift example
Time Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Daily 06:00–18:00 A C D B A C D B A C D B A C D B A C D B A C D B A C D B
Nightly 18:00–06:00 B A C D B A C D B A C D B A C D B A C D B A C D B A C D
Plan Run 1 Run 2 Run 3 Run 4 Run 5 Run 6 Run 7

5-day shift plans[edit]

In four on, one off the employee only gets one day off. There are 28 shifts per employee in a five-week cycle (i.e. 35 days), this adds up to an average of 48 hours worked per week with 8-hour shifts. This plan is mainly adopted by industries in which companies prefers to work for all days of the week with four shifts and where laws do not let employees work for 12 hours a day for several days.

Four on, one off example with 8-hour shift
Time Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
07:00–15:00 A A A A off A A A A off A A A A off A A A A off A A A A off A A A A off A A A A off
B B B off B B B B off B B B B off B B B B off B B B B off B B B B off B B B B off B
C C off C C C C off C C C C off C C C C off C C C C off C C C C off C C C C off C C
D off D D D D off D D D D off D D D D off D D D D off D D D D off D D D D off D D D
off E E E E off E E E E off E E E E off E E E E off E E E E off E E E E off E E E E
Plan Run 1 Run 2 Run 3 Run 4 Run 5 Run 6 Run 7

6-day shift plans[edit]

In four on, two off the employee gets two days off. There are 28 shifts per employee in a six-week cycle (i.e. 42 days), this adds up to an average of 56 hours worked per week with 12-hour shifts, or 37 13 hours per week with 8-hour shifts. Three groups are needed for each time span, i.e. to cover the whole day and week a company needs 6 groups for 12-hour shifts or 9 groups for 8-hour shifts. This plan is mainly adopted by industries in which employees do not engage in much physical activity.

Four on, two off example with one 12-hour shift per day
Shift Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
07:00–19:00 A A A A off off A A A A off off A A A A off off A A A A off off A A A A off off A A A A off off A A A A off off
B B off off B B B B off off B B B B off off B B B B off off B B B B off off B B B B off off B B B B off off B B
off off C C C C off off C C C C off off C C C C off off C C C C off off C C C C off off C C C C off off C C C C
Plan Run 1 Run 2 Run 3 Run 4 Run 5 Run 6 Run 7

Week shift plans[edit]

Three-shifts[edit]

The three-shift system is the most common plan for five 24-hour days per week. The "first shift" often runs from 06:00 to 14:00, "second shift" or "swing shift" from 14:00 to 22:00 and a "third shift" or "night shift" from 22:00 to 06:00. To provide coverage 24/7, employees have their days off ("weekends") on different days.

All of the shifts have desirable and less desirable qualities. First shift has very early starts, so time in the evening before is heavily cut short. The second shift occupies the times during which many people finish work and socialize. The third shift creates a situation in which the employee must sleep during the day.

Generally, employees stay with the same shift for a period of time, as opposed to cycling through them; this is seen as healthier.[citation needed]

Three-shift example
Time Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
06:00–14:00 A A A A A off off
14:00–22:00 B B B B B off off
22:00–06:00 C C C C C off off

To provide an overlap in shifts, some employers may require one of the shifts to work four 10 hour shifts per week (as opposed to five 8 hour shifts, both are 40 hours per week). In that scenario, the night shift might extend from 21:00 to 07:00, but the night-shift would have nearly four days off (86 hours) between work weeks. This change, along with first shift moving a half hour later, or second moving a half hour earlier, ensures at least a half hour overlap between shifts, which might be desirable if the business is open to the public to ensure that customers continue to be served during a shift change.[2]

Some states, such as California,[2] accommodate this arrangement by allowing the employee to be paid at their regular rate (as opposed to time-and-a-half, or an overtime rate, that would normally be required for any time past 8 hours) for the 10 hour shift, calling this an "alternative workweek".

Four on, three off[edit]

In four on, three off, each employee works four days and gets a three-day weekend. For some types of manufacturing, this is a win-win arrangement. For example, a paint company had been making 3 batches of paint per day, Monday through Friday (3 × 5 = 15). They changed to making 4 batches of paint, Monday through Thursday (4 × 4 = 16). Total worker hours remained the same, but profits increased. In exchange for two additional hours of work per day, over 4 days, workers got an additional day off every week. See also the book, 4 Days, 40 Hours.

Four on, three off example with 10-hour shifts (in comparison to five-day week schemes)
Time Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
4-day week 08:00–18:00 10 h 10 h 10 h 10 h off off off
4½-day week 08:00–17:00 9 h 9 h 9 h 9 h 4 h off off
5-day week 09:00–17:00 8 h 8 h 8 h 8 h 8 h off off

Continental plan[edit]

Continental plan, adopted primarily in central Europe, is a rapidly changing three-shift system that is usually worked for seven days straight, after which employees are given time off, e.g. 3 mornings, 2 afternoons and then 2 nights.

Continental shift example
Time Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
06:00–14:00 A A A C C B B
14:00–22:00 B B B A A C C
22:00–06:00 C C C B B A A

24*7 shifts[edit]

In the 24*7 plan there are 24 consecutive shifts of 7 hours per week, hence covering 24/7. With 4 groups and 6 shifts per group, the work time is 42 hours per week. Several sub-patterns are possible, but usually each group is responsible for one of four time slots per day. Each of these is 6 hours long and if a shift begins in their time slot, a group has to work it. This way there are 14, 21 or 42 hours of rest between shifts, every group gets one whole day off. Shifts can be swapped to make double-shifts and increase the minimum time of rest.

24*7 example (reasonably possible double shifts marked with arrow)
Shift/Group Work time window Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Night 21:00–09:59 23:00–06:00 off 00:00–07:00 21:00–04:00 01:00–08:00 22:00–05:00↑ 02:00–09:00
Morning 03:00–15:59 06:00–13:00 03:00–10:00 07:00–14:00 04:00–11:00↑ 08:00–15:00 05:00–12:00 off
Day 09:00–21:59 13:00–20:00 10:00–17:00↑ 14:00–21:00 11:00–18:00 off 12:00–19:00 09:00–16:00
Evening 15:00–03:59 20:00–03:00 17:00–24:00 off 18:00–01:00 15:00–22:00 19:00–02:00 16:00–23:00↑
24*7 example with double shifts and long rests around them
Shift/Group Work time window Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Night 21:00–09:59 21:00–04:00 01:00–08:00 22:00–05:00 off 23:00–13:00 off 00:00–07:00
Morning 03:00–15:59 04:00–11:00 08:00–15:00 05:00–12:00 02:00–09:00 off 03:00–17:00 off
Day 09:00–21:59 off 15:00–22:00 12:00–19:00 09:00–16:00 13:00–20:00 off 07:00–21:00
Evening 15:00–03:59 11:00–01:00 off 19:00–02:00 16:00–23:00 20:00–03:00 17:00–24:00 off

Split shift[edit]

Main article: Split shift

Split shift is used primarily in the catering, transport, hotel, and hospitality industry. Waiters and chefs work for four hours in the morning (to prepare and serve lunch), then four hours in the evening (for an evening meal). The average working day of a chef on split shifts could be 10:00 to 14:00 and then 17:00 to 21:00

Split shift example
Shift Time Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Lunch 10:00–14:00 on on on on on off off
Break 14:00–17:00 off off off off off off off
Dinner 17:00–21:00 on on on on on off off

Earlies and lates[edit]

Earlies and lates is used primarily in industries such as customer service (help desk, phone-support), convenience stores, child care (day nurseries), and other businesses that require coverage greater than the average 09:00 to 17:00 working day in the UK, but no 24/7 coverage either. Employees work in two shifts that largely overlap, such as early shift from 08:00 to 16:00 and late shift from 10:00 to 18:00

Earlies and lates shift example
Shift Time Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Earlies 08:00–16:00 A A A A A Off Off
Lates 10:00–18:00 B B B B B Off Off

In businesses where two shifts are necessary to cover the day, earlies and lates may be combined with one double shift per week per worker. Six 7-hour shifts in five days and seven 6-hour shifts in six days both result in 42 hours per week.

Earlies and lates with double shift example, six 7-hour shifts in five days, ten groups
Shift Time Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Earlies 08:00–15:00 ABCDE F ABCDE G ABCDE H ABCDE I ABCDE J Off Off
Lates 15:00–22:00 A FGHIJ B FGHIJ C FGHIJ D FGHIJ E FGHIJ Off Off
Earlies and lates with double shift example, seven 6-hour shifts in six days, twelve groups
Shift Time Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Earlies 08:00–14:00 ABCDEF G ABCDEF H ABCDEF I ABCDEF J ABCDEF K ABCDEF L Off
Lates 14:00–20:00 A GHIJKL B GHIJKL C GHIJKL D GHIJKL E GHIJKL F GHIJKL Off

28-hour day[edit]

The 6-day week with 28 hours per "day" is a general concept for full week coverage where the 168 hours of the week are grouped differently. It can be used as a base for several shift plans, e.g. four 7-hour shifts per day where every employee works six shifts for a total of 42 hours per week.

28-hour day example
Day 1 2 3 4 5 6
Start Mon 00:00 Tue 04:00 Wed 08:00 Thu 12:00 Fri 16:00 Sat 20:00
1st shift A E C A E C
2nd shift B F D B F D
3rd shift C A E C A E
4th shift D B F D B F

21-hour day[edit]

The 8-day week with 21 hours per "day" is a general concept for full week coverage where the 168 hours of the week are grouped differently. It can be used as a base for several shift plans, e.g. three 7-hour shifts per day where every employee works six shifts for a total of 42 hours per week, but to get whole days off groups work alternating double shifts.

21-hour day example
Day 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Start Mon 00:00 Mon 21:00 Tue 18:00 Wed 15:00 Thu 12:00 Fri 09:00 Sat 06:00 Sun 03:00
1st shift A D C B A D C B
2nd shift B A D C B A D C
3rd shift C B A D C B A D

8-day shift plans[edit]

Main article: Four-day week

Four on, four off is a shift plan that is being heavily adopted in the United Kingdom and in some parts of the United States.[citation needed] An employee works for four days, usually in 12-hour shifts (7:00 to 7:00) then has four days off. While this creates a "48-hour week" (42-hour average over the year) with long shifts, it may be preferred because it shrinks the work week down to four days, and then gives the employee four days rest—double the time of a usual weekend. Due to the plan, employees effectively work an eight-day week, and the days they work vary by "week". As with three-shift systems, most employees stay with the same shift rather than cycling through them.

Four on, four off example for two different schedules
four on, four off ten-fourteen Week 1 Week 2
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Mon
07:00–19:00 08:00–18:00 A A A A C C C C
19:00–07:00 18:00–08:00 B B B B D D D D

Such shifts are popular within the Australian ambulance and fire sector, see 2-2-4. However it is often referred to as a ten-fourteen roster, as the day shift lasts for ten hours, with the night shift lasting fourteen. Extended night shifts such as these are often a double edged sword; on one hand crews on slower weeknight shifts, or those in areas of low demand will receive excellent levels of rest (when there are no calls for emergency services, crews are encouraged to rest if required). Conversely, those employed on high demand days such as weekend nights, or in particularly high demand areas, will often be required to be awake or working for their entire rostered shift. However due to the scheduled nature, most ambulance and fire employees can attempt to obtain sufficient rest before or after a particularly busy 14-hour night shift.

A variation of the four on, four off plan is the two days, two nights, four off plan of working. In this shift schedule, employees work 12-hour shifts from 06:00 to 18:00 on day shifts and from 18:00 to 06:00 on nights. This plan is currently in use by HM Coastguard in the UK, and employs four separate teams to maintain 24/7 coverage.

Two days, two nights, four off example
Time Week 1 Week 2
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Mon
06:00–18:00 A A B B C C D D
18:00–06:00 D D A A B B C C

12-day shift plans[edit]

The 6 on, 6 off plan consists of 3 days and 3 nights of work, then 6 days off. These will alternate between other crews, also known as teams, for a full 24/7 operation. The 12-day pattern repeats in a cycle of twelve weeks, i.e. 84 days.

6 on, 6 off example
Shift Week 1 Week 2
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri
06:00 to 18:00 A A A B B B C C C D D D
18:00 to 06:00 D D D A A A B B B C C C

Fortnight shift plans[edit]

Panama Schedule[edit]

The Panama plan follows a 2-2-3 pattern throughout a fortnight, in which shift workers generally are allowed every other Friday, Saturday, and Sunday off, with two additional days off during the week, although this may differ depending on organization and industry. The most common form utilizes four shifts, each working twelve hours, with two shifts generally paired together: A working days and B working nights while C and D are off, and vice versa. It is not uncommon for shifts to rotate between days and nights, most often with six months spent on nights and six on days. This shift is sometimes known as 2-2-3 or "two, two and three".

Panama schedule example
Shift Week 1 Week 2
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
06:00 to 18:00 A A C C A A A C C A A C C C
18:00 to 06:00 B B D D B B B D D B B D D D

7-day fortnight plan[edit]

In the 7-day fortnight plan or 2-3-2 plan, employees work their allotted hours within 7 days rather than 10 in a fortnight, i.e. fourteen days and nights. Therefore, 41 hours per week equate to 82 hours per fortnight, which is worked in seven days, at 11–12 hours per shift. This shift structure is used in the broadcast television industry, as well as many law enforcement agencies, as well as health care fields such as nursing and clinical laboratories in the US.

7-day fortnight shift example
Shift Week 1 Week 2
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
08:00–20:00 A A C C C A A C C A A A C C
20:00–08:00 B B D D D B B D D B B B D D

One of the advantages of using this plan is each shift pair, for example A and B, will get time off on weekends alternatively, because the schedule is fixed and does not drift.

Five and two[edit]

The five and two or 3-2-2 plan provides 24/7 coverage using 4 crews and 12-hour shifts over a fortnight. Average hours is 42 per week but contains a 60-hour week which can be challenging.

7-day fortnight shift example
Shift Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
08:00–20:00 D D D B B D D B B B A A B B A A A C C A A C C C B B C C
20:00–08:00 A A A C C A A C C C D D C C B B B D D B B D D D A A D D

5/4/9s[edit]

5/4/9s or Five/Four Nines is a mix of 5-day and 4-day work weeks. Employees work in two-week cycles. Week 1, the employee works 4 days of 9 hours followed by 1 day of 8 hours with 2 days off (i.e. 44 hours). Week 2, the employee works 4 days of 9 hours with 3 days off (i.e. 36 hours).

Like 8 hours a day for 5 days a week, this plan works to 80-hours in a two-week pay-period. Since employees work on nine days per cycle, this plan is also referred to as 9/80. The benefit to working an extra hour a day gives you a normal 2-day weekend followed by a long 3-day weekend the next. Typical working hours for this type of shift would be 06:00 to 15:30 (9 hours with 30 minutes lunch) and 06:00 to 14:30 (8 hours with 30 minutes lunch) on the 8-hour work day. Often the employer will alter the starting times (e.g., start at 07:00 or 08:00).

5/4/9s shift example
Week Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Week 1 9 h 9 h 9 h 9 h 8 h off off
Week 2 9 h 9 h 9 h 9 h off off off

A variation, early weekend or 4½-day week, has the employees work every Friday, but only for 4 hours each. Their weekend thus starts with the Friday lunch break.

Long-term shift plans[edit]

DuPont 12-hour rotating plan[edit]

The DuPont 12-hour rotating plan provides 24/7 coverage using 4 crews and 12-hour shifts while providing a week off. Average hours is 42 per week but contains a 72-hour week which can be challenging. It is used in several manufacturing industries in the US. Companies that have gone to this schedule have noticed a decrease in accidents plus more rest for employees, less call ins, and more coverage when crews are short handed. In all the schedule is designed to improve safety. A particular advantage of this plan is that it can readily be slewed to fit business requirements. For example if less coverage is required on a Sunday, stand-alone shifts are avoided by scheduling the fourth night and first day of four on that day. This also has the additional benefit of the quick turnaround day between three shift days and nights also falling on a Sunday.

DuPont 12-hour rotating shift example
Time Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
06:00–18:00 D D D C C C C A A A D D D D B B B A A A A C C C B B B B
18:00–06:00 A A A A D D D B B B B A A A C C C C B B B D D D D C C C

Seven-day eight-hour rotating plan[edit]

The seven-day eight-hour rotating plan provides 24/7 coverage using 8-hour shifts with 14 crews. It consists of a "morning shift" from 07:00 to 15:00, a "swing shift" from 15:00 to 22:30 and a "night shift" from 22:30 to 07:30. Each shift works for five days straight. The 8-hour shifts allow vacations and absences to be covered by splitting shifts or working double shifts. The run of day shifts is 56 hours, but the 8-hour shift provides time for some socializing after work.

This plan was once common in the pulp and paper industry in the Western United States but has been largely replaced by an 8 days, 8 swing, 5 nights, 9 off, 8-hour rotation.

7-day 8-hour rotating shift example
Week Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
1 Day Day Day Day Day off off
2 Swing off off Swing Swing Swing Swing
3 Night Night off off Night Night Night
4 Day Day Day Day off off Day
5 Swing Swing Swing Swing Swing off off
6 off Night Night Night Night Night off
7 off off Day Day Day Day Day
8 Swing Swing Swing Swing Swing off off
9 Night off off Night Night Night Night
10 Day Day off off Day Day Day
11 Swing Swing Swing off off Swing Swing
12 Night Night Night Night off off Night
13 Day Day Day Day Day off off
14 off Swing Swing Swing Swing Swing off
15 off off Night Night Night Night Night

Graveyard shift[edit]

Graveyard shift, night shift or third shift means a shift of work running through the early hours of the morning, especially shifts starting around midnight. The origin of this phrase is uncertain. According to Michael Quinion it is an "evocative term for the night shift … when … your skin is clammy, there's sand behind your eyeballs, and the world is creepily silent, like the graveyard."[3]

In 2007, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that working the graveyard shift would be listed as a "probable" cause of cancer.[4][5][6]

On-call[edit]

Employees who work on an on-call basis have no regular schedule. They agree as a condition of employment to report to work when they are called, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This is particularly common in American railroad employment, especially for train crews.

Firefighting schedules[edit]

In many departments, firefighters work 24-hour shifts. They are authorized to sleep in the fire station at night but are still subject to calls for service the entire shift. Most departments split the 168 hour long week between 3 or 4 work groups (sometimes referred to as 'shifts' or 'platoon groups'), resulting in a 56 or 42 hour workweek, respectively. Some departments reduce the average workweek by scheduling an extra day off for each firefighter in the work group, frequently reducing a 56 hour workweek to a 48 hour workweek by scheduling a 24 hour "Kelly Day" every three weeks. Departments have many options for scheduling firefighters for coverage. One option is 24 on/48 off, where a firefighter will work 24 hours and have 48 hours off, regardless of the day of the week or the holidays. Often they will be scheduled in an A–B–C pattern. Thus, a firefighter will be assigned to A, B or C shift and work whenever that letter is on the calendar.

Most departments have found that a 24 hour work shift, with opportunistic sleeping between calls for service, is a valid means of avoiding some of the health and cognitive problems associated with shift work.

Three-platoon schedules[edit]

The most basic three-platoon schedule is a straight rotation of 24-hour shifts among three platoon groups. This rotation limits time off to 48 hours in a row, less than 66 hours off in a row most workers get each weekend. Workers on this schedule only get one short weekend off every three weeks, making it difficult to perform the social grooming required to build the support networks necessary to deal with the stressors associated with emergency response. Twenty-four hours off-duty is also the minimum required to completely recover from a period of acute sleep deficit.[7]

24/48 pattern
Week Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Week 1 A B C A B C A
Week 2 B C A B C A B
Week 3 C A B C A B C

Another option is known as a California roll, where some shifts will be close together but allow for several days off. This option gives a 96 hour break every 9th day, which is contiguous to the conventional weekend on two of nine weekends, with a third weekend providing a break that starts on Saturday morning. There is an opportunity to accumulate sleep debt over the three days of work, however this debt should be completely cleared over the four-day break. The nine-day rota that is repeated to fill the calendar.

California roll shift schedule
Week Time Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Week 1 07:00–07:00 A B A C A C B
Week 2 07:00–07:00 C B

A firefighter will work 24 hours on, 24 off, 24 on, 24 off, 24 on, 96 hours (4 days) off.

This rotation reduces the chronic sleep deficit accrued over the first two work days at the expense of a shorter long break. This schedule's long break coincides with a standard weekend exactly once every nine weeks. The four-day break could be retained by working a fourth day in the rotation - XOXOOXOXOOOO.

Modified California Roll
Week Time Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Week 1 07:00–07:00 A B A B C A C
Week 2 07:00–07:00 A B C B C

A firefighter will work one day, off one, work one, off two, work one, off four days.

A number of departments have investigated further work consolidation by allowing for a 48 hour work shift. Careful demand management would be required to avoid acute sleep deficit, however, firefighters should return to work fully recovered from the previous shift.[8]

Kenneth B. Ellerbe chief of the District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department has proposed a schedule where firefighters work three-day shifts, followed by three night shifts, followed by three days off.[9] It is likely that such a schedule would impact all four alertness factors associated with shift work, and result in a threat to public safety. It would result in exactly one break coinciding with the standard weekend every nine weeks. DDDNNNOOODDDNNNOOO

Four-platoon schedules[edit]

The most basic four-platoon schedule is a straight rotation of 24-hour work shifts between four work work groups or platoons. This schedule works 48 hours per week for three weeks and 24 hours the fourth week, averaging 42 hours per week.

24/72 pattern
Week Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Week 1 A B C D A B C
Week 2 D A B C D A B
Week 3 C D A B C D A
Week 4 B C D A B C D

Another variation of the 24-hour shift schedule is a 4-platoon system, averaging 42 hours/week. Thus, the schedule is 24 on, 48 off, 24 on, 96 off, on a 4-day rotation.

24/48/24/96 pattern
Week Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Week 1 A D B A C B D
Week 2 C A D B A C B
Week 3 D C A D B A C
Week 4 B D C A D B A
Week 5 C B D C A D B
Week 6 A C B D C A D
Week 7 B A C B D C A

Although the performance benefits of shorter shifts may not outweigh the performance costs of consecutive nights of work, some departments with four platoon groups work shorter shifts. Most such departments work a 10 hour day and a 14 hour night tour.[7] This enables the firefighter to get relieved from work in the afternoon, commute home, spend time with family, and get a good night's sleep before returning to work in the morning. Schedules that only allow 12 hours, or less, between work shifts do not allow enough time to incorporate a healthy night of sleep, and therefore begin to accumulate sleep deficit even when the employee is working days.

On the 2-2-4 schedule, firefighters work two 10 hour days, two 14 hour nights, and then have four days off. In the Canadian Firefighter study, consecutive nights were shown to be more deleterious to performance than a single, long shift. After two consecutive nights, performance effectiveness was reduced to 75%, vs. 78% on a 24-hour shift. If the schedule induces sleep deficit during the day shift, this performance would be worse. This schedule's long break aligns with the conventional weekend for exactly two weeks out of eight.

The rota is: DDNNOOOO.

The 2-2-3 schedule is also known as the Panama Schedule, however, when firefighters work it, the shifts rotate from day to night between every break. Since the firefighters have a two-day break before any nights worked, they do not start the series of nights with an employment-related sleep deficit. They do work three nights in a row, which would result in chronic sleep deficit if alarms are received on each night, however, the third night is always a Sunday night, which is often less busy than other nights of the week. This schedule allows for a long break every other weekend.

The rota is: DDOONNN OODDOOO NNOODDD OONNOOO

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Miller, JC (2013). "Fundamentals of Shiftwork Scheduling, 3rd Edition: Fixing Stupid". Smashwords. 
  2. ^ a b "Order No. 4-2001 Regulating Wages, Hours and Working Conditions in the Professional, Technical, Clerical, Mechanical and Similar Occupations". Industrial Welfare Commission. Retrieved 15 February 2012. 
  3. ^ "Saved by the Bell", Worldwidewords.org, March 27, 2000
  4. ^ [1] An estimated 20% of the American labour force works the night shift.
  5. ^ Overnight shift to be classified as 'probable' cancer cause", CNN, November 29, 2007
  6. ^ http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanonc/article/PIIS147020450770373X/fulltext
  7. ^ a b Paul MA, Miller JC (October 2005). Consideration of 5 Canadian Forces Firefighter Shift Schedules (Technical Report) (in English, French). Toronto: Defense R&D Canada. 
  8. ^ "Departments on 48-96". 48-96.com. Retrieved 13 February 2012. 
  9. ^ Smith, Ed (2011-12-30). "A shift toward sleep deprived firefighters". Washington Post. Retrieved 13 February 2012. 

Further reading[edit]