From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Scotland’s Tired Private Prison Guards — An Ergonomic Issue

Managers of Scotland’s prison system heard in January that prison guards at the private security company Reliance are being forced to work “dangerously long shifts.” Reliance, contracted by the Scottish Prison Service to perform certain core and escort duties, has been heavily criticized for a number of escaped prisoners. Long shifts are not ergonomically sound, and have been shown in many studies to lead to the kind of problems that make prison escapes unsurprising.

In an article in The Scotsman newspaper, the Prison Service Union (PSU) reported that tired workers responsible for some of the country’s most dangerous inmates are in danger of letting their guard drop, putting their safety at risk and potentially leading to escapes.

PSU Assistant General Secretary Steve Farrell explained in the report that staff work “extremely long and dangerous hours – anything between 12 and 16 hours a shift, on average.” In extreme cases, staff work in excess of 20 hours in a single day, he said.

“To be working with prisoners you need to be extremely vigilant at all times. There comes a point after you’ve been working so long that your sharpness of mind is not what it should be. That can lead to mistakes being made and sometimes that can be very dangerous. We’re talking about exposing staff to the risk of assault and even, potentially, prisoners escaping. After all, staff have to deal with extremely dangerous people who are also very clever.”

Hospitals battle a parallel problem