Caffeine is a commonly used stimulant in many workplaces around the world. As such, it is often considered to be the friend of the shift worker and a new analysis of research findings may make that friendship stronger.
According to a new study from Cochrane researchers:
“The results of this systematic review suggest that caffeine may be effective in improving performance in persons engaged in shift work or suffering from jet lag, although it may not be possible to confidently translate such an improvement in performance to a reduced injury risk.”
The caffeine in the studies could be taken as energy drinks, pills, coffee or caffeinated food (?) and it
“….appeared to reduce errors compared to placebos or naps, and improve performance in various neuropsychological tests, including those focusing on memory, attention, perception and concept formation and reasoning.”
Caffeine better than a nap? Many would dispute this.
The jump in logic that the researchers have made needs further investigation because in a media release (not available online) that accompanied the study, lead researcher Katharine Ker of the London School of Tropical Medicine in London said:
“It seems reasonable to assume that reduced errors are associated with fewer injuries, although we cannot quantify such a reduction.”
The assumption shows a limited understanding of the cause of workplace incidents by focusing on the individual without considering the working environment. There are many scenarios in many different workplaces that could be investigated.
It would be interesting to see research into caffeine intake by shift workers who wear blue-blockers for instance.
No research is definitive particularly in the realm of occupational health and safety. Caffeine should be seen as hazard control option amongst many other options. Many of them covered by SafetyAtWorkBlog over the last few years. The detailed research into caffeine and shift work is another nugget of evidence to add to the body of knowledge.