Risks During The Time Change – Daylight Savings to Standard Time
Written by: Douglas Skinner, MPA, NRP, NCEE
Changing the clocks does not create extra daylight or an increase in darkness, but it shifts the time the sun rises and sets. This can cause disruptions to our body clock, otherwise known as the circadian rhythm. The time change has been known to leave many of us fatigued, which can provide some safety risks on the jobsite.
In the fall, most of us think: “Fantastic! I get another hour of sleep”; and yes, you will. However, there is a huge difference between the “society clock” and the “biological clock” we all work from. During such time changes there is statistically an increase in safety incidents. So, depending on your personal schedule, you might get more daylight or less, and daylight is a critical resource in the body’s ability to produce vitamin D. In our bodies, vitamin D contributes to bone health, to the immune system and to reducing inflammation. In our diet, however, it’s comparatively rare. It appears naturally in very few foods, and while it can be added as a supplement, it’s created primarily through exposure to sunlight, when the ultraviolet rays from the sun reach our skin and trigger vitamin D synthesis.
In a study released earlier this year, researchers warned that shift workers, healthcare workers, workers who work long hours, and people whose jobs keep them indoors may be at an increased risk for vitamin D deficiency. The study recommended that workplace wellness programs make a point of addressing the importance of vitamin D in the hopes of preventing metabolic disorders, psychiatric and cardiovascular disorders, and even cancer (NSC, 2017).
Various medical studies from over the years have suggested that in the days following the spring forward, and the fall the fall back process, Americans could be more likely to suffer things like heart attacks and car crashes, due to sleep disruption. It generally takes about a week for the average person to adjust to the altered time schedule. In that time, many people experience difficulty falling asleep at night, tiredness during the day, and feelings of restlessness.
Fatigue and decreased alertness due to lack of sleep can be a safety hazard on a job site, according to a statement from the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM). It can slow reaction time, reduce decision-making abilities, and lead to poor judgment — all of which can be hazardous or even fatal on a job site.
How To Protect Workers From Sleep-Related Accidents
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine suggests people transition into the time change gradually by going to sleep a bit earlier, several days before the clocks move ahead. However, few of us actually do this, and employees can’t be forced to do so either. Instead, consider the following adjustments in the workplace (AASM, 2016)
- Schedule project start times at least 45 minutes later on the Monday and Tuesday after the time change.
- Manage crew members accordingly on each job site. If your crew is short-staffed, they’re more likely to rush and cut corners, which can further increase the risk of injury.
- If you have especially hazardous projects on the agenda, such as roofing, electrical work, trenching, or working on scaffolding, reschedule these projects and workers for later in the week.
- Remind workers and supervisors to keep their eyes peeled for crew members who appear groggy or zoned out.
- If workers are having difficulty staying alert, assign them to less hazardous work, provide rest areas, or take them off the project altogether.
- Emphasize the importance of alertness while driving to and from job sites. You may suggest employees drive in pairs, so passengers can help drivers stay alert, especially if they’re driving after dark.
Scheduling is the key to a successful construction business. By adjusting your schedule to fit workers’ needs in the weeks after a time change, you’ll protect both your team and your business.
SCS Safety Health & Security Associates assists our clients who desire to improve safety, improve Experience Modification Rates (EMR), reduce insurance premiums through safety. We work with our clients to identify hazards, reduce injuries, and to implement programs. We do this by Risk Management techniques, developing safety programs, conducting job site safety inspection, conducting safety meetings, and providing training. We also provide CPR/AED and Basic First Aid certification. Contact us today, and see how we can you!
AASM, (2016). American Academy of Sleep Medicine advisory warns of adverse effects of daylight-saving time. https://aasm.org/american-academy-of-sleep-medicine-advisory-warns-of-adverse-effects-of-daylight-saving-time/
ACOEM, (2014), Choosing Wisely, American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. https://www.choosingwisely.org/societies/american-college-of-occupational-and-environmental-medicine/
Lesonsky, (2019). How Daylight-saving time affects your construction business. https://blog.tsheets.com/guest-post/daylight-saving-time-affects-construction-business
NSC, (2017), Time is Not the Only Change, https://www.nsc.org/safety-first-blog/time-is-not-the-only-change-1