Nurses at the children's and youth emergency department at the Turku University Hospital (Tyks) Lighthouse Hospital on February 15, 2024. LEHTIKUVA

Health & wellbeing

An extensive study conducted by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health has shown significant improvements in working times and occupational safety within the social welfare and healthcare sector, thanks to the implementation of the Working Time Traffic Light Model and updated shift ergonomics recommendations.

The study, which analyzed data from the “Sote-työajat” cohort spanning from 2008 to 2022 and included over 80,000 employees,

examined the impacts of the Working Time Traffic Light Model, the 2020 Working Hours Act, and the COVID-19 pandemic on work conditions in the sector.

Implemented since 2015, the Working Time Traffic Light Model has been integral in shift planning within the sector. The model's recommendations have been linked to enhanced shift ergonomics, reduced occupational accident risks, and slightly lower psychological stress among workers.

Despite these benefits, only 20% of shift planners regularly use the traffic light recommendations. This highlights a need for broader adoption to maximize the model’s positive impact on worker safety and well-being.

The 2020 Working Hours Act played a crucial role in decreasing the prevalence of short shifts, which contributed to a reduction in sickness absences. The study found that the legislative changes effectively improved working conditions without significant disruption to working times during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The research emphasizes the importance of good shift ergonomics, particularly in addressing the challenges of irregular shift work, which poses significant health and safety risks. The findings advocate for systematic and informed shift planning to ensure a safe and healthy work environment.

The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health recommends more extensive use of the Working Time Traffic Light Model across the sector. The updated national recommendations and a new free occupational accident risk calculator are available to assist in risk assessments and enhance workplace safety.

The study's results are not only relevant to Finland but also offer internationally significant insights into the benefits of proper shift ergonomics. These findings can be applied to various workplaces worldwide to improve occupational safety and well-being in the social welfare and health care sectors.

The project, supported by the Finnish Work Environment Fund, underscores the critical role of systematic shift planning in promoting healthier and safer working conditions.