Safety and OSHA News

Does Daylight Saving Time help or hurt workplace safety?

Have mixed feelings about Daylight Saving Time (DST)? You’re not alone. On the one hand, you have more daylight at the end of the day. On the other hand, many people’s internal clocks don’t like the annual change.

You know the drill: On the second Sunday in March, we turn our clocks ahead one hour at two a.m.

Then the next day, we have to get up on time for work.

Our bodies operate on an internal clock that nature sets at 24 to 25 hours per cycle. So when we take one hour away each spring, many people in our already sleep-deprived society really feel it.

But does it really have an effect on workplace safety? University of British Columbia professor emeritus Stanley Coren says after looking at different types of accidents, including traffic crashes and workplace incidents, he found there was a 5% to 7% increase in fatalities during the three days following DST.

That sounds like reason enough to do away with DST.

However, DST actually saves lives according to Coren: People drive to and from work in the daylight when there are fewer crashes.

What can you do to feel better rested on the first few days after DST takes effect? Coren says go to bed earlier the night before the change (Saturday night). It’s easier to try to make up the sleep time by going to bed earlier rather than sleeping later. That’s because humans tend to wake up fairly automatically. Our eyelids aren’t opaque, and our sensitivity to light wakes us up after sunrise.

Have trouble going to sleep earlier? Try exercising, even a little bit, a few hours before you plan to go to bed.

There have been other solutions suggested. One was to give us an extra day to adjust by moving the DST change from early Sunday morning to early Saturday morning. Despite a campaign to do that, the idea never caught on.

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  1. MichaelJ says:

    “People drive to and from work in the daylight when there are fewer crashes.” Don’t understand this comment. Before DST, it was light when I drove to work in the morning and just getting dark, but still light, when I drove home (and that was only going to get better, light-wise). After DST, it is dark when I start my drive on a clear day. When cloudy, it is dark my whole drive, and every light in the house is on, where needed, to get ready. How does that save energy or make me safer? It just makes me tired.

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