Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Shift Work

Just finished up a four month stint on night shift at work, and I started thinking about the concept of "shift work" in general -- the ways that organizations required to man certain positions 24/7 distribute the work. At my company, we have four "teams"; you have 12 hour shifts either 3 or 4 days a week, and the supervisors shift between night shift and day shift every four months. The problem, or advantage, is that you pretty much work the same days of the week.
In the submarine world, I had experience with two different kinds of shiftwork. Anytime an entire department is involved in ongoing work, we would just normally divide up into thirds, and work eight hour shifts; you'd stay on the same shift until the job was done. During new construction, the nukes would have to be in continuous shift work for about four or five months during pre-core testing. With about 45 nukes, I divided up into three teams of fifteen; there was enough "slop"that guys could normally get one day off every two weeks. It pretty much sucked.
When I was last in the shipyard, the Virginia was able to work out a four shift rotation; this pretty much meant everyone was busy the entire eight hour shift, and it was harder for them to arrange child care schedules and such since they rotated.
The most well-known shift work schedule is the "prototype" schedule -- "prototypes" being the six month hands-on training at land-based reactors that nukes go to after Nuke School. The first two times I went there were four crews; the staff hours were as follows in each 28 day rotation:

"Swings": 1600-2400 Wednesday through Tuesday
"Mids": 0000-0800 Friday through Thursday
"Days": 0800-1600 Saturday through Friday

So, basically you got 48 hours off between Swings and Mids, and again between Mids and Days. Then, you got 120 hours off between Days and Mids, in what was traditionally called a "four off". Then you started the rotation again. Students had an additional four hours each day -- four hours before shift on Swings and Mids, and four hours after shift on Days.

The big transition there was between Swings and Mids -- for students, you only had 44 hours to shift your sleeping schedule. Most people would end up partying through the whole night after work on Tuesday night, then sleeping through the day. In Idaho, this was traditionally called an "LDS" party -- "Last Day of Swings", and also in allusion to the dominant religion of the area (I hadn't joined the Church yet, so I celebrated with my friends).

In the early 90s, they realized that this four shift schedule really sucked, especially for the staff. Students could be made to put up with anything for six months, but if you're stuck there for 2-3 years, it gets old fast. To improve staff quality of life, they added a fifth shift; basically, this meant that after Days, you came in an did "T-week" from Monday through Friday of the next week, and then took your four off. You basically did all your required training then, along with whatever odd jobs they could throw at you. I did that for two years as a Shift Engineer at NPTU Charleston from '93-'95; I found that I couldn't switch my sleeping schedules quite as easily as I could when I was younger. Now that I'm in my 40s, and was shifting between mids and days twice a week... let's just say I'm glad to be going back to day shift...

Going deep...


Anonymous chrys said...

Favorite shift is the "Lobster Shift" (mids) - you get to choose what part of the day to use. My father did "swings" and it's really hard to adjust and unadjust to someone trying to sleep different hours. It would be nice to leave people in one set of hours so that they can take classes or live th rest of their days doing other things. Shift changes keep you from establishing an otherwise regular life.

7/24/2005 2:35 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was TAD to SubPac's comm centre back in '86, they were working 2-2-2-and-80. Four shifts working three watches per day (00-08, 08-16, 16-24); two days, then two mids, then two eves, after which there'd be 80 hours off. The 80 hours were nice,but the switchbacks were murder, with only eight hours between the second day shift and the first mid, or between the second mid and the first eve.

RM1(SS) (ret)

7/24/2005 6:10 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was an older four-shift prototype schedule. When I went through Idaho in the mid-seventies as a student here's the way it worked. You started out on mids by getting on the bus at about 1800 Wednesday to make your plus-four starting at 2000. Seven days of that, ending at 0800 the following Wednesday. Off for 52 hours and back in on Friday at 1200 for your plus-four to start seven days of swings. Off the following Thursday at 2400. 32 hours off and back in at 0800 for seven days of days, ending at 1600 the following Friday, even for students. I'm not counting bus time of course, which was about two hours each way from IF for students. Staff could drive their own cars of course and cut a good bit off that.

The difference in the two schedules is that the two short between-shift off periods under my schedule were 52 and 32 hours (we called them a "two off" and a "one off"). Under yours they were 44 and 48 hours, which are more even (those are for students, not staff). But when we got off of days, we got a genuine "five off", not four. That's because we were starting off the rotation with mids instead of swings.

The one-offs were killers, but the five-offs were great.

7/25/2005 8:33 AM

Anonymous Idaho Joe said...

Looking at the shift you're working now, sounds like you might work for "a large semiconductor manufacturer" here in south west Idaho. If that's true I also work there, but was finally able to get on 1st shift about 5 years ago after being on just about every other shift for the first 5 years.

7/25/2005 11:46 AM

Anonymous Ernie said...

In 1973 we had our 5 days off and would go to Yellowstone, or go hunting south of the Idaho site. When we were in shift work at EB for initial fill of the Reactor, we were in 12 on 12 of. this lasted for 5 months, we had to steam to balance our Steam Generators. At this time I spent many days off with friends and very little sleep. My last job I was in a 12 hour rotating shift work, 3 night, 1 day off 4 days, 2 day off, 4 night, 1 day off, 7 days, 7 days off, then restart on 3 nights.

7/25/2005 12:06 PM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

Idaho Joe: Could be... I saw someone visiting from that domain name, and I started wondering if I should go through the employee handbook to see if blogging isn't allowed; then I realized I never mentioned the company, so I'm probably safe.

7/26/2005 7:39 PM

Blogger kPg said...

My move to the night shift will start in a couple of weeks. I don't know what to feel! I'm excited, but I'm also scared. I've written about the advantages and disadvantages of working the night shift. I hope you check it out and leave me some tips on how to survive the big change. Thanks!

4/07/2011 9:41 AM

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