By Rieva Lesonsky, CEO of GrowBiz Media & SmallBizDaily.com
On March 10, states that follow daylight saving time will “spring ahead” one hour. For construction businesses, it’s a welcome change that enables crews to work longer in the evenings (unlike in the fall when construction workers lose an hour of daylight they can’t make up by starting work earlier).
But spring’s change to daylight saving time also has drawbacks for construction businesses. Here’s how the time change could affect your employees and what you can do to reduce the effects.
Side effects of daylight saving time
Although inconclusive, various medical studies from over the years have suggested that in the days following the spring forward, Americans could be more likely to suffer things like heart attacks and car crashes, due to sleep disruption. It generally takes about a week for the average person to adjust to the altered time schedule. In that time, many people experience difficulty falling asleep at night, tiredness during the day, and feelings of restlessness.
Fatigue and decreased alertness due to lack of sleep can be a safety hazard on a job site, according to a statement from the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM). It can slow reaction time, reduce decision-making abilities, and lead to poor judgment — all of which can be hazardous or even fatal on a job site.
How to protect workers from sleep-related accidents
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine suggests people transition into the time change gradually by going to sleep a bit earlier, several days before the clocks move ahead. However, few of us actually do this, and employees can’t be forced to do so either. Instead, consider the following adjustments in the workplace.
- Schedule project start times at least 45 minutes later on the Monday and Tuesday after the time change.
- Manage crew members accordingly on each job site. If your crew is short-staffed, they’re more likely to rush and cut corners, which can further increase the risk of injury.
- If you have especially hazardous projects on the agenda, such as roofing, electrical work, trenching, or working on scaffolding, reschedule these projects and workers for later in the week.
- Remind workers and supervisors to keep their eyes peeled for crew members who appear groggy or zoned out.
- If workers are having difficulty staying alert, assign them to less hazardous work, provide rest areas, or take them off the project altogether.
- Emphasize the importance of alertness while driving to and from job sites. You may suggest employees drive in pairs, so passengers can help drivers stay alert, especially if they’re driving after dark.
Make spring the season for safety
Use daylight saving time as a reminder to take care of periodic safety tasks at your business.
- Review your workplace disaster plan to make sure information is still current and employees are familiar with the plan.
- Check fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, fire alarms, and other safety devices in your facility to make sure they’re functioning correctly. Replace batteries or recharge devices as needed.
- Check vehicle emergency kits. Equip company vehicles with jumper cables, flashlights, bottled water, hazard triangles or flares, and weather-appropriate emergency items such as blankets or gloves.
- Check your job site first-aid kits. Replace any expired medications or first-aid products.
- Perform preventive maintenance on your company vehicles and equipment.
- Make sure the personal protective equipment your crew uses is in good working order.
Scheduling is the key to a successful construction business. By adjusting your schedule to fit workers’ needs in the weeks after a time change, you’ll protect both your team and your business.
Rieva Lesonsky is the CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at email@example.com, follow her on Google+ and Twitter, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for free TrendCast reports.