Sometimes the best intentions have unintended consequences. Daylight Saving Time (DST) is an example. Stretching the day’s light stretches business dollars, unless it’s that first Monday following the switch from Standard Time (ST). On that one day, DST can be quite costly, particularly in the construction industry.

Image: Prince George’s Suite


Here is why and also what can be done to keep that Monday from being an overly expensive work day.

A federally mandated energy conservation tool, DST reduces daily electricity consumption by approximately one percent.

Moving clocks one hour ahead – springing forward – saves millions of dollars in lighting costs as the business day is concluded before nightfall. During DST, which this year runs from March 14 to Nov. 7, daily oil usage goes down by 10,000 barrels.

However, that first full work day on DST time coincides with record numbers of job related injuries. That means that some of the savings reflected in monthly utility bills winds up being spent on lost work time, medical expenses and workers’ compensation payouts.

Not enough sleep is the culprit. It takes time for body clocks to adjust to DST.

Adults require between seven and nine hours of sleep to function at their best. However, on the first Monday of DST, adults are often sleep deprived. According to research from Michigan State University, workers report to their jobs 40 minutes shy of their usual shuteye. This may sound minor, but the sleep loss coincides with an abrupt rise in workplace mishaps – a 5.7 percent jump on that one day – followed by nearly 68 percent more work days lost due to those injuries.

On the other hand, falling back to ST – the day gains an hour of darkness – does not make workers more accident prone. No significant increases in injuries and sleep losses are reported when ST resumes in November.

Traffic accidents also spike with DST’s arrival.

Studies from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the University of British Columbia cite sleep loss as the most likely reason for the increase in crashes – 17 percent in the U.S. and eight percent in Canada – that occurs on the first Monday of DST.

As an energy savings device, DST delivers. However, to maximize benefits, keep in mind that employees might be a little less sharp on that first day. People are more prone to getting hurt when they are tired, and they will be more tired when DST arrives. Prepare accordingly. Schedule more dangerous and demanding tasks later in the week…after everyone has adjusted to the time change.

[Janet Lubman Rathner]