Daylight saving time change may increase workplace injuries

The loss of sleep brought on by the daylight saving time change may increase workplace accidents and injuries, according to researchers.

At 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 10, 2013, most people across the United States set their clocks forward one hour to start daylight saving time (DST), so that evenings have more daylight and mornings have less. Typically, clocks are adjusted forward one hour near the start of spring and are adjusted backward in autumn.

Organizations have developed protocols for dealing with the technological requirements of the time shift, such as adjusting the time in their computer systems and time clocks. However, many employers should be aware of the potential effects on safety caused by the start of DST.

Increase in workplace injuries

The National Sleep Foundation states that it will take most people a few days to adjust to the loss of one hour of sleep. According to a 2009 study published by the Journal of Applied Psychology, losing just an hour of sleep could pose dangerous consequences for those in hazardous work environments.

Using U.S. Department of Labor and Mine Safety and Health Administration data, the study found that the DST switch resulted in U.S. workers getting 40 minutes less sleep, a 5.7% increase in workplace injuries and nearly 68% more workdays lost to injuries.

“We contend that the springtime change is associated with an increase in the number and severity of workplace accidents, especially for those engaged in jobs requiring a high level of attention to detail,” the authors said in a statement. “Studies have shown that lost sleep causes attention levels to drop off.”

Awareness of the increased safety risk may cause employees to exercise extra caution and avoid potentially dangerous accidents and injuries.

The sleep-safety link has led some industries, such as trucking and airlines, to regulate limits on the consecutive hours that truckers can drive or crews can fly without taking a break.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM. Follow him on Twitter @SHRMRoy.

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