Most of us take the bi-annual ritual of changing-the-clock in stride. After all, whether you’re springing forward or falling back, there is only an adjustment of one hour[1]. Much research exists which indicates that worker safety can be seriously impacted by this change especially the switch to daylight savings in March.

“Losing one hour of sleep can be pretty significant,” says Lora Cavuoto, Ph.D., assistant professor of industrial and systems engineering at the University at Buffalo and of the ASSP Foundation-funded study “Advancing Safety Surveillance using Individualized Sensor Technology.” “But because it’s only one hour of less sleep, employers might not see some of the obvious, extreme signs of fatigue like eye closures or nodding off. There may be a reduction in work output or general presenteeism — people who are at work but not functioning at 100 percent.”

Employers and Teachers

How should employers ensure that worker’s fatigue due to lack of sleep does not impact their objectives? How should educators teaching in-person or remotely ensure that students are fully engaged and aware? These are excellent risk management questions for further discussion, especially in light of Covid-19’s dramatic changes to our workplaces and our children’s schooling.

Regarding tonight’s ‘fall back’ change, the NY Post comments[1], “While we might gain an extra 60 minutes of sleep, we might also be in danger of losing our minds due to the disruption to our senses.” Furthermore, they posit that COVID-19 is a reasonable factor to consider canceling this practice, as people are already under stress from the pandemic. Sleep loss leaves us more susceptible to a viral illness, so it’s a bad moment to potentially lower the body’s immunity. A study in JAMA Neurology[2] from 2019 found some evidence that people are at higher risk of heart attack, stroke, and other harmful effects of sleep deprivation around the time of the shifts, which result in adults losing an average of 15 to 20 minutes of slumber.

In the United States

Hawaii and much of Arizona do not observe daylight saving time, nor do American Samoa, Guam, the Minor Outlying Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Early in 2020, a New York State Senator introduced a bill that would move NYS to permanent standard time. However, his efforts were stalled by COVID-19 and political focus on more immediate concerns. In sharp contrast, this September, two U.S. Senators proposed a bill in the U.S. Senate to keep America on daylight saving time year-round. This too was stymied by election year and Covid priorities.

On the other side of the argument, the United States Department of Transportation[1], which oversees the country’s standardized time zones, says on its website that the daylight saving process saves energy, prevents traffic injuries, and reduces crime. By the way, this government website was last updated on March 10th, 2014.

Outside of the U.S.

Many countries along the equator do not observe daylight saving time, because their daylight hours don’t vary much throughout the year, according to the National Sleep Foundation. While Australia and Asia are a mixed bag as far as daylight saving is concerned, much of Africa opts out. Daylight saving is standard practice across the European Union (with the exception of Iceland), although lawmakers are mulling pulling the plug on the practice amid concerns over its long-term health impacts.

Risk Management

ISO 31000 teaches that decisions are to be made with the best available information — a commodity which is hard to come by regarding Covid-19. Nevertheless, we know enough to strongly consider modifying our Monday morning 9 AM work and school routines, particularly this year.


[1] Quotes and excerpts from This is the group that hosts the US ISO 31000 Technical Advisory Group of which I am a member.