The 48/96 and the Fire Service
According to a study conducted by San Jose Firefighters Local 230, the 48/96 work schedule has been used by professional fire agencies since the early 1990’s. Since 1998, over three hundred departments switched to this schedule as a means of relief from long commutes, increased time home with their families, better sleep/rest cycles and improved health, but also to improve morale by providing more consecutive time off, and more weekends off. This schedule is not a theoretical experiment in the fire service, but a proven and valid schedule option. It is also the next reasonable step in the evolution and improvement of the fire service. The Departments using the schedule are diverse in their demographics, management structure, and overall philosophies.
Most departments that considered the schedule first voted for a six-month or one-year trial period. In all cases, an escape clause was added to the agreement to allow labor or management to opt out of the trial period at any time.
What is a “48/96” work schedule?
A 48/96 work schedule is simply this: each platoon works two consecutive twenty-four (24) hour shifts, for a total of forty-eight (48) hours (tour). Immediately following one (1) tour that platoon would have ninety-six (96) hours off before repeating another pattern of two (2) days on, four (4) days off.
One shift is still considered to be 24 hours. If a firefighter takes a day off, he/she uses 24 hours of vacation leave, and works the remaining 24-hour shift. Personnel would still be allowed to take time off in partial shifts. For example, if a firefighter takes the first half of his/her first shift off, he/she comes in that evening and works out the remaining 36 hours of the tour.
Nothing but the Facts
We work the same number of days with the current work schedule and the 48/96 work schedule
56 hours per week
10 days per month
120 days per year
4 Days off duty
0 per year on the current schedule
60 per year on the 48/96 work schedule
Full Weekends off duty
17 weekends off per year on the current schedule
26 weekends off per year on the 48/96 work schedule
Full Weekends on duty
0 complete weekends worked on the current schedule
9 complete weekends worked per year on the 48/96 work schedule
240 commute days per year on the current schedule
120 commute days per year on the 48/96 work schedule
Mileage to work will be cut in half
Less wear and tear on your vehicle
Less time driving
Reduction in your fuel bill
Reduction in air pollution
Tours falling on both Christmas Eve and Christmas day
The 24th could be swapped for the 26th
Fire Agencies Currently Operating on the 48/96 Work Schedule
More than 300 departments have switched to the 48/96 work schedule or are in the midst of a trial period. Including many locally.
Many more departments are reportedly now conducting feasibility studies of the 48/96 work schedule.
What are the benefits to changing to a 48/96?
Days off and scheduling benefits
"four-days"—Since the 48/96 is a more efficient arrangement of days, the number of "four-days" increases to a total of 60 per year from 0 per year currently.
More weekends off—The 48/96 work schedule gives personnel a total of 26 full weekends off per year, versus the current schedule of 17. This equates to more weekends off consecutively. This is a benefit for personnel whose families are involved in weekend activities such as team sports or church services.
Week- to-week pattern—Under the current schedule, a firefighter will work, every third Monday. With the 48/96 work schedule, a firefighter works two consecutive Mondays, then has the next four Mondays off. Again, for those who participate in regular activities such as college courses or sports leagues, this is a significant benefit.
Sleep deprivation and fatigue-Numerous studies have been done to link the 48/96 schedule with sleep deprivation. However, all studies performed in the last decade have shown an increase in sleep/rest cycles and a decrease in chronic sleep deprivation and fatigue. West Metro (Colorado) completed a very extensive study from 2004-2012, their study showed an average increase of 3.5 hours of sleep a week. That translates to 8 full days of sleep a year.
Injuries-Many reports came out from 2002-2007 that showed concern for the increase in injuries related to working 48 straight hours. None of these reports were based in fact nor were any supported by data. The latest studies completed in the last several years, have all shown that there has been no rise in injuries when switching to the 48/96 schedule and the number of injuries on the first and second days of the tour remain virtually the same.
Sick time usage-Over 300 departments have switched to the 48/96 schedule, every department that has reported their sick time, has showed a 20-85% decrease in usage. This can be attributed to many things including more and better rest, better overall health and less unnecessary usage due to more consecutive days off at one time.
Mornings at Home—5 more mornings per month that you will wake up at home, not going to work. This increases the number of mornings a firefighter is home to help take the kids to school or just sleep in.
Commute Reduction—cuts commutes in half.
Traffic Reduction—By implementing the 48/96 work schedule, we will reduce the number of vehicles from congested roadways.
What are the negative aspects of the 48/96 work schedule?
Personnel will be away from the family for 48 hours:
Change in family routine of any kind can be difficult
Some members face unique issues in regards to childcare, child custody, and animals, care of an elderly parent or sick family members.
Difficulty and expense involved with renegotiating child custody
This schedule requires you to work 61, 48-hour tours. We don’t work any now without OT.
If the first shift is busy, productivity on the second shift could decrease.
The 48/96 work schedule requires that personnel work nine full weekends per year.
What were other departments’ motivation for a schedule change?
Most of the fire departments’ membership were motivated by the reduction in commuting and the fact that employees could spend more time at home with their families. A number of departments chose to switch as a means of attracting and maintaining employees. Many departments changed because they saw the positive benefits and improvements in morale in surrounding departments who had switched to the 48/96 work schedule. In all cases it was Labor who brought the idea to their department for consideration.