Daylight Saving Time – Reducing the Risks when Working at Height
We’ve reached that time of year again when the evenings are longer and we enjoy the extra hours of daylight at the end of each day. These longer evenings continue to get longer and lighter until June 21st when the nights imperceptibly start getting a little earlier. Daylight Saving Time was introduced here in the UK back in 1916 and, since 1996, all clocks in the European Union have changed on the same dates and at the same time.
You may be surprised to learn that not all countries around the world change their clocks. In fact, there are many countries that have stopped the practice and some others which did not adopt it at all. This leaves Europe and the North American Continent in the minority when it comes to adjusting our clocks and the practice has been steeped in controversy since it was first proposed by astronomer George Hudson, a British-born New Zealander. There are several advocates for permanent Daylight Saving Time to be instigated, staying on summer hours all year round with no time shifts.
Whatever the politics of this, here in the roofing industry, we usually welcome the extra hour of daylight towards the end of the working day as the increased light makes work at height safer. However, the first couple of weeks are often a challenge as workers adjust to the need to rise earlier which can often lead to tiredness and fatigue.
According to a new National Safety Council (NSC) report, losing an hour of sleep can increase the risk of circadian misalignment – forcing ourselves to stay awake when our bodies think we should be sleeping. Indeed, research shows that there is an increase in fatal car crashes on the Monday following the change!
Any industry in which risk factors are high is likely to see an increase in accidents and incidents in the first few days as workers adjust to the new working hours – this is especially true in roofing and construction. For the roofing industry, where workers typically are expected to work at height, this increase in risk must be acknowledged and addressed in order to ensure the safety of workers.
On Monday, employers and personnel should be on the lookout for signs of fatigue throughout the entire workforce. Fatigue signs and symptoms include:
- Tiredness and weariness
- Sleepiness, often leading to falling asleep (micro sleeps)
- Reduced alertness, concentration and memory
- Lack of motivation
As an employer, there are some measures you can take next week to ensure that your roofing workers are affected as little as possible. These include:
- Making sure caffeine is available for a quick pick-me-up during the day. Sometimes a cup of coffee is all it takes to dispel momentary tiredness.
- Make sure all employees have had an adequate breakfast before beginning work and encourage them to eat a little more during their breaks for the first week or so of Daylight Saving Time.
- Make sure there is adequate lighting in indoor areas.