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Workplace Accidents Rise After Time Change

The start of daylight saving time last month was a difficult adjustment for many people. The loss of an hour’s sleep can bring on headaches, fatigue and mood swings. Studies have even pegged upswings in heart attacks, car wrecks, and workplace accidents to the time change.

While an hour of missed sleep sounds insignificant, the findings showed that a single hour can have an impact on workers’ ability to stay alert and safe on the job.

For example, a 2009 report in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that coal mine workers reported to work with 40 minutes less sleep than normal on the day after daylight saving time started. These workers experienced a 5.7 percent increase in workplace injuries in the first week of the transition compared with other times of the year.

The researchers examined 576,292 work injuries sustained by miners between 1983 and 2006. On the average Monday, the miners reported an average of 63 on-the-job injuries. But on the Monday following the switch to daylight saving time, the number of injuries increased to nearly 67. In general, those injuries were more severe than at any other time.

Our internal clocks are not always aligned with our wristwatches and kitchen clocks. When we move our clocks ahead, we may not be sleepy at our normal bedtime, so we stay up until our bodies are ready to fall asleep. But office hours don’t change, and we end up working with less sleep than usual and working along side others who may be drowsy.

In 2013, the number of construction accidents in New York increased 5.7 percent and the number of injuries increased 4.3 percent with nearly 200 people suffering construction-related injuries in 2013, the New York Department of Buildings recently announced.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reported 4,383 workers were killed on the job in 2012 in the United States. That is an average of 84 deaths a week or 12 a day.

And according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 3 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses were reported by private industry employers in 2012, or 3.4 cases per 100 fulltime workers. Nearly 95 percent of these incidents were injuries.

Daylight saving time has been part of our culture for many years, the website Time and Date reports. Until 1966, states and localities were free to choose when and whether to observe daylight saving time, and this caused nationwide confusion. Congress stepped in and established the Uniform Time Act that set daylight saving time as the last Sunday of April to the last Sunday of October but gave states the option of exempting themselves.

Changes over the past 48 years have established different start and end dates.

Currently daylight saving time starts the second Sunday in March and ends the first Sunday in November.

If the time change affects your body clock and your ability to function in the weeks that follow, there are ways to counteract negative effects.

  • Workplaces where employees perform hazardous duties can schedule the most dangerous tasks a few days or a week after the time switch so workers have a chance to adjust. General work schedules can be adjusted, too, with later start times that could be gradually adjusted until employees are back on their normal timetable.
  • Exercise, including brisk walks or running, will help you adjust to the time change. Exercise in general helps you sleep better.
  • Melatonin helps regulate cycles of sleep and wakefulness. Low doses of supplements can boost melatonin levels, which may help you get a good night’s sleep.
  • An early supper may trick the body into thinking bedtime is earlier, too.
  • Avoiding caffeine and alcohol right before bedtime will make it easier to fall asleep and give you a better quality of rest.
  • Create a bedtime ritual and make sure your bedroom is a haven for comfortable rest. Limit daytime naps, and seek ways to manage stress.

David Resnick founded the firm in 1998 after working in large law firms where he saw a need for greater client communication and more personal care. He wanted to help everyday folks who have had the misfortune to be injured in an accident.

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