Daylight Savings Time and Work Safety – What is the cost?

Posted by & filed under Workplace Accidents.

Losing sleep before work can lead to higher rates of workplace accidents.  Public domain photo by Kathrym Bennett.

Daylight savings time may help save lives in the long run, but workplace accident rates rise because of the change, according to a new study.

Stanley Cohen from the University of British Columbia led the investigation of how daylight savings time affects accidents in the workplace and during travel.

“We live in a society that is chronically sleep-deprived, and very bad things happen when chronic sleep deprivation is an issue,” Cohen said.

Losing an hour of sleep has a negative effect in the days following the time shift. According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, the average mine worker in America lost 40 minutes of sleep before coming into work after the shift to daylight savings time. Workplace accidents increase between five and seven percent in the few days following the change. Workplace accidents, slow downs in activity and heart attacks cost the United States $434 million dollars, according to an index released in 2013.

Car accidents become more frequent after the time shift, as tired drivers take to the road. However, accidents occur less often in daylight than in darkness. Early morning and evening illumination lowers accident rates, saving lives.

Daylight savings time was designed as a means of saving energy. The ideas was originally put forth by Benjamin Franklin in 1784, when he suggested aligning work hours with daylight would help save expensive candle wax. “Spring ahead, fall back” was officially adopted during the First World War, in response to skyrocketing petroleum prices. It was not until 1966 that a standard system for managing daylight savings time was adopted. A 2012 study by National Geographic brought claims of any energy savings into question.

When clocks “fall back” in the fall, most people don’t use that extra hour for sleep. This means little reduction in the rates of workplace and auto accidents in autumn to compensate for spring.