The Connection Between Potential Sleep Loss and Heightened Workplace Safety Risks Due to DST

Sleepless in New Jersey: Daylight Saving Time and Workplace Injuries

Daylight Savings Time (DST) has a long history in the United States, dating back to 1784. Benjamin Franklin believed that starting the day earlier would be economical in terms of candle savings. Longer daylight hours meant fewer candles burned. Over a century later, the Standard Time Act permanently instituted DST as an energy conservation measure in American lives. Since its inception during WWI, all states but Arizona and Hawaii spring ahead near the spring equinox, including New Jersey.

The reason for DST is losing ground as lighting becomes more economical and less energy-consuming in modern times, according to a 2017 International Association for Energy Economic Journal paper. Proponents of ending DST argue that longer days mean more energy consumption in cooling and heating. However, one substantial drawback is the mental health cost of DST. A 2020 study published in PLOS Computational Biology reports that DST increases substance abuse, depression, anxiety, and mood disorders. It also leads to a heightened risk of workplace injuries.

Potential Dangers of Daylight Savings Time for Workplace Safety and the Importance of Sleep to Avoid Injuries at Work

Springing the clocks ahead yearly disrupts healthy sleep patterns; the time change jars our systems, abruptly changing our internal clocks before they are ready. The result is less sleep and more physical and mental health problems, such as obesity, diabetes, and cognitive decline. Sleep-deprived people risk more accidents at home, on the road, and on the job.

To illustrate, a National Law Review article discussing the DST controversy cites a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health study that tracked mining injuries over 33 years. The researchers found that the day with the most and worst workplace injuries was the one following the time change, with about a 6% increase in mining injuries. Another study of the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics reported the possible connection between the 40 minutes or so of lost sleep from DST and the workplace injury rate.

Primary Industries Impacted by Daylight Savings Time Sleep Deprivation Injury Risk

Potential Dangers of Daylight Savings Time for Workplace Safety and the Importance of Sleep to Avoid Injuries at Work in NJ

Blue-collar workers, construction workers handling hazardous materials or operating heavy equipment may be especially susceptible to injuries from sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation can cause employees to be less able to concentrate, which can affect decision-making and reaction time. For example, a forklift operator or construction worker navigating a narrow beam high above the ground risks serious injuries when they are less able to focus on what they are doing.

Ambulance drivers, firefighters, police officers, and other first responders must be clear-headed to react quickly to emergencies and make split-second decisions. These workers, with graveyard shifts and irregular schedules, already face challenges to a regular sleep pattern. DST exacerbates sleep irregularity and the risks associated with it.

But even white-collar workers cause injuries with too little sleep. Air traffic controllers, accountants, surgeons, and pharmacists must be laser-focused and attentive to details, or the results can be devastating to others. Drivers experiencing sleep loss are a danger to themselves and others when the number of traffic accidents increases after DST. Various studies cite a 6% increase in traffic accident fatalities and a 17% increase in overall traffic accidents.

NJ Workers’ Rights After Daylight Savings Time Injuries

Injuries caused by workplace accidents usually fall under New Jersey workers’ compensation rules and regulations. Those injured on the job get short—or long-term benefits to cover the costs of medical and disability payments during recovery before returning to work or beyond if the injury is permanent. Regardless of fault, workers’ compensation in New Jersey covers injured employees. So, even when DST is the culprit, New Jersey employees get compensated for mistakes they or their employers make.

However, carrying workers’ compensation does not exempt employers from maintaining safe working conditions. Employers owe a duty of care to ensure employees are not exposed to undue risks. Their legal duty derives from Occupational Health and Safety law, employment contracts, common law, and workplace policies. Ignoring the known effects of DST on the health and performance of employees may be equivalent to maintaining an unsafe work environment in violation of safety laws in some cases.

Employer and Employee Strategies to Promote Worker Safety During Daylight Savings Time

Employers know when the change occurs so they can implement strategies that help employees adapt and transition smoothly to maintain productivity in a safe working space. First, information about the change’s effects on sleep and health can help employees take steps to ease the effects, like going to bed earlier. Other considerations include offering a flexible or reduced schedule for more sleep.  

Additionally, employers can take advantage of the heightened awareness about safety during this time to ensure the workplace environment is safe, reviewing and updating workplace protocols, training, and education. To improve safety during DST, employers can also turn up the lights and encourage lunchtime walks outside to adapt employee physical, mental, and behavioral rhythms to the new time. Company owners can also offer resources regarding sleep hygiene and overall health and well-being.

Employees, too, can take steps to lessen the injury risk from DST. They can work on a gradual earlier sleep schedule over time before the time changes, develop better sleep routines promoting a peaceful bedtime, and improve their healthy exercising, eating, hydration, and stress-reducing strategies.

Cohen & Riechelson Fights for Victims of Workplace Injuries Caused by Sleep Deprivation and Fatigue in NJ

Whether a workplace injury occurs due to an employer duty breach or DST effects, you need the help of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. The workers’ compensation system can be complicated for those unfamiliar with the paperwork and process. Before a workers’ compensation award is final, you must follow the claim procedures by filing a claim with your employer, getting medical attention, and submitting to examinations from workers’ compensation doctors working for the insurance company. Often, you must respond to discovery requests about your injury, medical treatment, and the nature of your accident and injury.

An experienced workers’ compensation attorney at Cohen & Riechelson can help you prepare the necessary documentation that you will need to obtain workers’ compensation benefits. Also, the system can be defeating, especially when dealing with insurance attorneys who may work to deny or reduce your claim. The worker’s compensation insurer may deny your claim as unrelated to work when the cause is DST. You need an advocate who will challenge a denial and work hard to prove your claim to a judge if necessary.

Our legal team is prepared to help in Lawrence, Monroe, Titusville, Hopewell, Ewing, Trenton, and towns in Burlington County, Mercer County, Camden County, Middlesex County, and throughout New Jersey. If you suffered an injury at the workplace or in the course of your employment in NJ, contact our local (609) 528-2596 office today for a free consultation.