How Daylight-Saving Time Affects Contractors in the Construction Industry
On October 27th 2019 the clocks go back an hour for what may be one of the last times ever. The EU has voted to scrap mandatory daylight saving time (DST) from 2021, signalling the end of our twice-yearly clock changes. Whilst this change to the clocks will result in an extra hour in bed for UK citizens, the extra hours of darkness as we enter winter will bring significant challenges to construction workers. It’s common for construction-based contractors to lose an hour of daylight work in the winter months that they are unable to make up with an earlier start.
The Dangers of Daylight-Saving Time
Forcing our bodies to adjust our wake times impacts our overall wellness, regardless of if we are getting sleep - any change will have significant effects. Studies have shown that work related accidents not only increase after a change in DST, but that the severity of accidents also increase. A study undertaken in the U.S by Christopher Barnes found increases as high as 5.7% as a result of DST, leading to a 67.6% increase in lost work days. This is because fatigue makes us less productive and therefore more prone to making bad decisions – which can be fatal in the construction industry.
Workers who use vehicles to get to work or during work should also beware of their increased risk of road crashes following the October clock change; research by the RAC Foundation suggests that more than 250 extra personal injury collisions are reported as a result of the darker afternoons, worsening weather and disoriented drivers.
DST can also be hazardous to yours and your worker’s physical health. Several studies have shown that risk of heart attack and stoke increases after the clocks have changed over and is at its highest in the first three weekdays after the switchover. This is particularly pertinent for men, who are more sensitive to the autumn transition from DST, compared to women who are generally at higher risk of heart attack in the spring transition to DST. It takes two weeks for our biological clock to synchronize to the new time and for the increased risk to subsequently subdue.
Combat Potential Fatigue Issues Following the Clocks Changing
1. Consider setting your clocks to change on Saturday to give yourself extra day to acclimatise.
2. Avoid engaging in dangerous work activities on the Monday following the time change.
3. Keep your more demanding tasks and meetings for Tuesday or Wednesday, and schedule tasks that do not require a huge amount of focus or concentration for the Monday after the DST changeover.
4. Exercising will help your body to combat the symptoms of fatigue.
5. Try to go to sleep earlier for the few days following the time change.
Stay Safe on Site This Winter
Use daylight saving time as a reminder to ensure safety tasks are up to standard in your business:
1. Review your workplace health and safety procedures, ensure that information is still current, and employees are familiar with the policies.
2. Undertake any maintenance required on your company vehicles and equipment to prevent any incidents caused by machinery.
3. Make sure your staff are appropriately protected against the change in weather and available natural light and continue to have regular breaks and drink plenty of fluids.
4. Prioritize using manual equipment or machinery in the middle of the day to avoid reduced visibility and fatigue increasing the risk associated with these activities.
5. Ensure the personal protective equipment your employees use is fit for purpose and in good working order.
Keep your employees safe by becoming a SafeContractor member. SafeContractor is a UK-leading SSIP accreditation that audits your health and safety procedures on one online platform, once a year. Once your details are submitted our team of in-house auditors expertly review that your health and safety procedures are meeting compliance standards.