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Workplace Injuries Spike After Daylight Saving Time Change

Employers should be aware of the potential effects on safety caused by the loss of sleep brought on by the daylight saving time change Mar. 8, 2015.

Research has shown that the hour of lost sleep could be related to an increase in job-related injuries in the days following the time change.

At 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 8, 2015, most people across the United States will set their clocks forward one hour to start daylight saving time (DST), so that evenings have more daylight and mornings have less. Typically, clocks are adjusted forward one hour near the start of spring and are adjusted backward in autumn.

The National Sleep Foundation states that it will take most people a few days to adjust to the loss of sleep. According to a 2009 study published by the Journal of Applied Psychology, losing just an hour of sleep could pose dangerous consequences for those in hazardous work environments.

Using U.S. Department of Labor and Mine Safety and Health Administration injury data from 1983-2006, the study found that compared with other days, more injuries happened on the Monday after daylight saving time went into effect and the injuries were more severe. The DST switch resulted in U.S. workers getting 40 minutes less sleep, a 5.7 percent increase in workplace injuries and nearly 68 percent more workdays lost to injuries.

“We contend that the springtime change is associated with an increase in the number and severity of workplace accidents, especially for those engaged in jobs requiring a high level of attention to detail,” the authors said in a statement. “Studies have shown that lost sleep causes attention levels to drop off.”

The authors suggested employers consider rescheduling hazardous work for later in the week, once workers have had a chance to adjust. Work schedules could also be modified, with workers starting 45 minutes later on Monday and Tuesday, before gradually returning to their original schedules by the end of the week. Extra safety precautions could also be implemented during the week.

Interestingly, the study found no similar phenomenon in the autumn, when clocks are set back an hour. The autumn change had an insignificant effect on how much sleep people got: just 12 extra minutes—not enough to make any noticeable difference in workplace safety, according to the research.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy


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