Does the Daylight Saving Time Change Increase Workplace Injuries?

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March 14 marks the beginning of Daylight Saving Time when the clocks move forward by one hour. Although the time change means that the afternoons stay light longer, it also means that there is one less hour of daylight in the morning. It also causes a disruption in people’s sleep cycle. Losing one hour of sleep may not seem like a big deal, but the time change, and the disruption of the circadian rhythm, can have a significant impact on a person’s physical and mental health. Fatigue and disrupted sleep patterns can also have major consequences on workplace safety. Numerous studies have found an increase in car accidents, as well as other fatal and non-fatal workplace injuries, following the time change. There are steps that both workers and employers can take to address this issue and prevent fatigue-related injuries in the workplace.

The time change is one of the first major signs that spring is around the corner and warmer weather is coming. The milder weather is also appealing to workers in the construction industry, landscaping, agriculture, and other workers whose job requires them to be outside. However, many of these workers start their day in the early hours, so they must cope with the additional hour of darkness. When combined with the lost hour of sleep, this can put workers at risk for serious accidents and personal injuries. Workers injured on the job because they were fatigued as a result of the time change should contact an experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyer for assistance.

What Does Research Say About the Risks of Daylight Saving Time?

There have been a number of studies over the years that have examined the impact of Daylight Saving Time and the impact that even minor sleep disruptions can have on workplace safety. Some of the most notable studies include the following:

  • Researchers published a study in the Journal of Applied Psychology, which examined hundreds of thousands of mining injuries between 1983 and 2006. According to the study, on an average Monday, there were roughly 63 work-related injuries. However, on the Monday after the Daylight Saving Time change, the average number of injuries increased by 5.7 percent. In addition, there was an increase in the severity of the injuries. The research also found that there was a 68 percent increase in the number of missed days on the Monday following the time change.
  • Another study, which was funded by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), found that the majority of workers get an average of 40 minutes less sleep on the Monday following the Daylight Saving Time change.
  • Numerous studies, including a study from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), found that there was an increase in fatal and non-fatal accidents following the daylight savings time change. This was attributed to the lack of sufficient sleep that the time change causes. The risk for car accidents is also higher immediately following the time change, particularly for truck drivers, train engineers, transit operators, delivery drivers, and other workers in the transportation industry. Fatigue can make it difficult for these workers to react quickly and avoid a serious accident.

How Does Sleep Disruption Impact Workplace Safety?

Even a small change in sleep patterns can have a major impact on workplace safety. In fact, even the one-hour time change, whether it is the hour gained in the fall or the hour lost in the spring, can cause sleep disruptions that impact cognitive functions. The following are examples of how sleep disruptions can put workers at risk for workplace accidents:

  • Decreased ability to focus, be aware of surroundings, and react to a range of unexpected situations that can result in injuries. According to a AAA study, losing one to two hours of sleep in a single night can have the same effect on a driver as if he or she were legally intoxicated.
  • Fatigue can render certain safety measures adopted by employers ineffective. This contributed to the increased severity of injuries in addition to the total number of accidents.

Safety advocates warn workers and employers about the safety hazards associated with the lost hour of sleep and the impact it can have on the Monday after the time change. In fact, in some cases, they have urged employers to adjust work schedules to allow for a later start time for several days following the change to Daylight Saving Time. This can help workers get adequate sleep and prioritize healthy sleep habits.

What can Workers Do to Avoid a Workplace Accident After the Time Change?

Certain things are out of a person’s control, including the semiannual time change. However, workers can control how they prepare for the time change and reduce the risk of serious workplace injuries that are caused by fatigue and disruptions in sleep patterns. Although both time changes can disrupt people’s circadian rhythm, which are the 24-hour cycles that are part of the body’s internal clock, the time change in the spring means that people lose an hour of sleep. This can cause workers to become anxious, stressed, have difficulty concentrating, and more likely to make mistakes. The following are examples of steps workers can take to adjust to the time change and avoid serious workplace injuries:

  • If an employee is running late for work because they forgot to change the clocks an hour ahead, they may be anxious and stressed about being late. Rather than driving too fast and endangering themselves and other motorists on the road, the worker is urged to stay calm and let the supervisor know that they are running late and focus on getting to work safely.
  • Workers should plan for the time change by going to bed 10 to 15 minutes earlier in the days leading up to the time change, and for several nights after the time change.
  • Safety should be made a priority. If a worker is feeling fatigued after the time change, he or she should spend extra time on each task and focus on completing the task safely and correctly rather than trying to get it done as quickly as possible. Careless mistakes are made when workers rush.
  • Workers who are fatigued should avoid using heavy machinery, equipment, or power tools. Drowsiness causes decreased reaction times, which can lead to devastating accidents if a piece of heavy equipment or a power tool with extremely sharp pieces is involved.
  • Fatigue affects everyone differently. If an employee notices that another worker appears to be fatigued, anxious, or is having trouble focusing or concentrating, the coworker should be encouraged to take a break, get some fresh air, or go home early to get some sleep.
  • Employees who commute during the morning hours will need to adjust to the darker morning conditions by keeping the following tips in mind:
    – Allow extra time to get to work after the time change. This can avoid feeling pressure to speed to get to work on time.
    – Be patient and avoid aggressive or reckless driving behavior.
    – Avoid talking or texting on the phone, eating, putting on make-up or other tasks that will take motorists’ attention off the road during the morning commute.
    – Avoid drowsy driving, since fatigue affects motorists’ reaction time.
    – Use extra caution when driving in school zones.
    – To avoid adding stress to the morning commute on the Monday after the time change, plan ahead by setting the alarm, making lunch, and making sure that clothes are ready for the next day, particularly for parents of young children.

According to safety officials, the start and end of Daylight Saving Time is a good reminder to take care of the following safety issues, both at home and in the workplace:

  • Replace the batteries in the smoke detector and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms in the home and the workplace. A smoke alarm that is older than 10 years should be replaced. A CO alarm that is older than five years should be replaced.
  • Workers who do a significant amount of driving for their job should keep a winter emergency kit in the vehicle at all times. This should include warm clothing, blankets, a flashlight with extra batteries, bottled water, jumper cables, non-perishable food, cat litter or sand, flares, and reflective hazard triangles.
  • Check the fire extinguishers to see if they need to be recharged. The small needle in the gauge at the top of the extinguisher will be in the green section if the extinguisher is charged, and in the red section if it needs to be recharged.

Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Victims of Workplace Accidents

If you suffered a workplace injury, do not hesitate to contact the Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. The time change can disrupt workers’ sleep and increase the risk of workplace injuries. Employers have a responsibility to recognize this risk and encourage workers to maintain healthy sleep habits, particularly following the time change. We will walk you through each step of the claims process and ensure that you receive the full financial benefits for which you are entitled for your injuries. To schedule a free confidential consultation, call us today at 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online. Located in Baltimore, we serve clients through Maryland.