Employers and employees should be aware of the potential effects on safety caused by the loss of sleep brought on by the daylight saving time change. Research has shown that the hour of lost sleep can be related to an increase in job-related injuries in the days following the time change.
It can take about one week for the body to adjust the new times for sleeping, eating, and activity. Until they have adjusted, people can have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, and waking up at the right time. This can lead to sleep deprivation and reduction in performance, increasing the risk for mistakes including vehicle crashes. Workers can experience somewhat higher risks to both their health and safety after the time changes (Harrison, 2013).
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Using U.S. Department of Labor and Mine Safety and Health Administration injury data from 1983-2006, the study found that compared with other days, more injuries happened on the Monday after daylight saving time went into effect and the injuries were more severe. The daylight saving time (DST) switch resulted in U.S. workers getting 40 minutes less sleep, a 5.7 percent increase in workplace injuries and nearly 68 percent more workdays lost to injuries.
Suggestions to Help Workers Adjust to Time Change
Employers can relay these points to help their workers reduce risks before the time changes in the Fall and Spring:
- Remind workers that several days after the time changes are associated with somewhat higher health and safety risks due to disturbances to circadian rhythms and sleep.
- It can take one week for the body to adjust sleep times and circadian rhythms to the time change so consider reducing demanding physical and mental tasks as much as possible that week to allow oneself time to adjust.
- Remind workers to be especially vigilant while driving, at work, and at home to protect themselves since others around them may be sleepier and at risk for making an error that can cause a vehicle crash or other accident.
Workers can improve their adaptation to the time change by using these suggestions (American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 2013). Circadian rhythms and sleep are strongly influenced by several factors including timing of exposure to light and darkness, times of eating and exercise, and time of work. One way to help the body adjust is to gradually change the times for sleep, eating, and activity.
- For the Spring time change, starting about three days before, one can gradually move up the timing of wakening and bedtime, meals, exercise, and exposure to light earlier by 15 – 20 minutes each day until these are in line with the new time. About one hour before bedtime, keep the lights dim and avoid electronic lit screens on computers, tablets, etc. to help the body move earlier the time it is ready to wake up in the morning and go to sleep at night.
- For the Fall time change, starting about three days before, one can gradually move the timing of wakening and bedtime, meals, exercise, and exposure to light later by 15 – 20 minutes each day until these are in line with the new time. About 1 hour after awakening in the morning, you can keep the lights dim and avoid electronic lit screens on computers, tablets, and so forth can help the body move to a later time that it is ready to wake up in the morning and go to sleep at night.
- Being sleep deprived before the time change will increase the health and safety risks so make it a priority to get enough sleep and be well rested several days before the time change.
- Other hazards for workers related to the time change in the Fall include a sudden change in the driving conditions in the late afternoon rush hour– from driving home from work during daylight hours to driving home in darkness. People may not have changed their driving habits to nighttime driving and might be at somewhat higher risk for a vehicle crash.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Daylight Saving: Suggestions to help workers adapt to the time change
- Adan A, Archer SN, Hidalgo MP, Di ML, Natale V, Randler C . Circadian typology: a comprehensive review. Chronobiol Intl 29: 1153-1175.
- American Academy of Sleep Medicine . Minimizing the effect of daylight saving time by adjusting your sleep schedule. http://www.aasmnet.org/articles.aspx?id=3732
- Harrison Y . The impact of daylight saving time on sleep and related behaviors. Sleep Med Rev. 17(4):285-92.
- Kirchberger I, Wolf K, Heier M, Kuch B, von Scheidt W, Peters A, Meisinger C . Are daylight saving time transitions associated with changes in myocardial infarction incidence? Results from the German MONICA/KORA Myocardial Infarction Registry. BMC Public Health. 14;15(1):778.