Take extra care: Daylight Saving Time increases accidents

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When everyone around the watercooler complains about getting an hour less sleep, HR should be listening. While the clock change gives Canadians more evening light to enjoy with their family and friends, it could be a serious risk for your organization’s health and safety.

A 2009 Michigan State University study found workers usually got 40 minutes less sleep when daylight saving ended, which led to increased injury frequency, and severity.

“This body of research suggests that sleep has meaningful implications for organizations and employees,” lead author Christopher Barnes said, adding that “phase advances” – when the clocks move forward – are often ignored in the context of work and safety.

When it comes to preventing injuries, one suggestion Barnes made was to schedule dangerous or hazardous tasks to later in the week, when workers had had a chance to catch up on their sleep.

“By moving dangerous activities to safer days, organizations can attempt to avoid the dangers of phase advances,” Barnes said. “A second manner in which organizations could attempt to mitigate these effects would be to schedule extra safety monitors. Multiple observers may partly offset the fact that on average employees will tend to be less observant of cues indicating impending injuries.”

By either delaying these activities, or adding extra supervision, your organization can reduce the risk of accidents.

It’s not just worker safety at risk – a 2008 Swedish study found heart attacks were significantly more common the first three weekdays after the spring transition, and significantly less common the first weekday after the autumn transition.

Tips from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety to ease the effects of the switch:

Rest up: Go to bed earlier to get your usual amount of sleep so you can be well rested and alert.

Defer the dangerous: Schedule particularly hazardous work later in the week (where possible) after employees have had more time to adjust their sleep schedules.

Plan ahead: Give yourself extra time to drive to and from work, especially during the Monday commute, to avoid a potential accident.

Step up the safety: Take extra safety precautions and assign extra safety monitors on days following the switch to DST to help avoid potential workplace injuries before they occur.

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