NIOSH provides tips on keeping workers safe when ‘springing forward’

Time change increases safety and health risks

Posted March 14, 2016

Now that we have turned our clocks forward for daylight saving time, our bodies must adjust to losing an hour of sleep. It takes time to adapt to the time change and people are at more risk for accidents due to fatigue.

It can take about one week for the body to adjust the new times for sleeping, eating, and activity (Harrision, 2013). Until they have adjusted, people can have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, and waking up at the right time. This can lead to sleep deprivation and reduction in performance, increasing the risk for mistakes including vehicle crashes.

Workers can experience somewhat higher risks to both their health and safety after the time changes (Harrison, 2013). A study by Kirchberger and colleagues (2015) reported men and persons with heart disease may be at higher risk for a heart attack during the week after the time changes in the spring and fall.

The reason for these problems is thought to be disruption to circadian rhythms and sleep. Circadian rhythms are daily cycles of numerous hormones and other body functions that prepare us for the expected times for sleeping, eating, and activity. Circadian rhythms have difficulty adjusting to an abrupt one hour time change.

Additionally, the time change in the spring leads to more daylight in the evening which may disturb some people’s sleep.

To help reduce risks, employers can relay these points to help their workers.

  • Remind workers that several days after the time changes are associated with somewhat higher health and safety risks due to disturbances to circadian rhythms and sleep.
  • Consider reducing demanding physical and mental tasks as much as possible that week to allow oneself time to adapt. It can take one week for the body to adjust sleep times and circadian rhythms to the time change.
  • Remind workers to be especially vigilant while driving, at work, and at home to protect themselves since others around them may be sleepier and at risk for making an error that can cause a vehicle crash or other accident.
  • Gradually change the times for sleep, eating, and activity. Circadian rhythms and sleep are strongly influenced by several factors including timing of exposure to light and darkness, times of eating and exercise, and time of work.

OSHA Safety Training NewsletterJ. J. Keller's  OSHA Safety Training Newsletter helps you improve your training techniques and meet OSHA requirements.


J. J. Keller's FREE Workplace SafetyClicks™ email newsletter brings quick-read workplace safety and compliance news right to your email box.

Sign up to receive Workplace SafetyClicks™.