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Daylight Saving Time means less sleep, poses safety risk

Change to DST on March 9 may increase fatigue, leading to workplace injuries.


Research shows the Monday after the time switch can be dangerous.

On the second Sunday of March, most Canadians turn their clocks ahead for an extra hour of daylight, and in the process they sacrifice precious minutes of sleep. So begins Daylight Saving Time (DST), which continues until the first Sunday in November.

Analysis of a US Bureau of Labor Statistics database that tracks how Americans use their time shoes employees on average get 40 minutes less sleep on the Sunday night of the switch to DST. That loss of sleep may not seem like much but a study by Michigan State University researchers found that the following Monday can be particularly dangerous. Analysis of mining injuries from 1983-2006 showed that there were 5.7% more workplace injuries and 67.6% more workdays missed due to injuries on that first Monday.

This research suggests less sleep may increase both the incidence and severity of injuries, which isn’t just confined to the workplace. The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) reports a higher driving risk. Statistics averaged from 2005-2009 show car accidents increased 23%.

Perhaps not surprisingly, people have a much easier time adjusting to the switch back to standard time. The same rates of accident and injury do not occur when people gain back the hour in November.

Here are tips to ease the effects of the switch:

• Advise employees to go to bed earlier to ensure they get the same hours of sleep.

• 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 precautions and assign extra safety monitors on days following the switch.

This article was provided by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), a not-for-profit federal corporation that promotes the physical, psychosocial and mental health of Canadian workers by providing information, training, education and management systems. Read the OSH Answers Fact Sheet: How Do I Work Safely With Flammable and Combustible Liquids. Visit www.ccohs.ca.