Many people could be feeling extra fatigued over the next few days now that the clocks have been turned back. Although it may seem like an innocuous change in routine, daylight savings can negatively impact workplace safety.
Less sleep, more safety concerns
There have been a few studies which looked to examine daylight savings’ impact on worker health and safety. According to one study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, employers in the mining industry reported a significant spike in the number of workplace injures that occurred on the Monday following daylight savings. Additionally, these injuries were more severe. The study analyzed the number of injuries reported to the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) over 23 years. Researchers also looked at the number of workdays employees missed because of their injuries. On average, 3.6 more injuries occurred on the Monday after the time change. As a result of those injuries, 2,649 more days of work were lost. The researchers did not find similar injury statistics for the Mondays after the switch to standard time in the autumn.
However, any change in sleep schedule can influence a person’s energy levels, and routines. While some people believe that fatigue is more common after “springing forward”, there is some evidence that “falling back” is detrimental as well. According to a review by Yvonne Harrison, “the autumn transition is often popularized as a gain of 1 [hour] of sleep but there is little evidence of extra sleep on that night. The cumulative effect of five consecutive days of earlier rise times following the autumn change again suggests a net loss of sleep across the week.” Regardless, of the time change both have the potential to negatively impact workplace safety.
It can take up to a week for the body to adjust to a new schedule. Until they have adjusted, many people can experience issues falling asleep, staying asleep, or struggle to wake up on time. The reason for these issues is due to a disruption to the circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythm is the 24-hour cycle of the body’s internal clock that regulates the sleep-wake pattern.
Because the time change is only an hour difference, employers may not see the noticeable signs of extreme fatigue like nodding off at work. If employees are dealing with mild fatigue, they may be irritable, prone to confusion, or their productivity may be reduced. However, when a worker’s fatigue does reach the extreme stage, it raises the likelihood of having impaired judgement and can negatively impact workplace safety.
How employees can reset circadian rhythm
- Adhere to a routine each day.
- Spend time outdoors when it’s light outside to boost your wakefulness.
- Get daily exercise.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine in the evenings.
- Prioritize rest.
- Turn screens off well before bedtime. Activities such as reading a book or meditating can help your mind wind down before bed.
Fatigue costs employers
Estimates from the study, the cost of poor sleep: workplace productivity loss and associated costs indicate that productivity losses due to fatigue can cost employers almost $2000 a year per employee. Additionally, increases in workers compensation premiums, property damage, and blows to a company’s reputation resulting from big accidents and employee injuries can be very costly. Another sobering thought is the potential danger people face on the roads when driving to and from work. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 795 deaths in 2017 were attributable to drowsy driving.
To learn more about employee fatigue, and ways employers can help combat it, visit our blog, The Dangers and Costs of Employee Fatigue.