Set the Clock Back, Move Ahead on Fatigue Management

On Sunday, Nov. 4, most Americans will set their clocks back an hour. The annual ritual of saying goodbye to Daylight Saving Time is one that raises workplace safety and health questions.
   Humans are programmed to be alert during the day and tired at night. Pushing the clock back means an extra hour of sleep – for one night. Then, as the days grow shorter, many will be driving to and from work in darkness.
   For older drivers, this can be a problem. A 50-year-old driver may need twice as much light to see as well as a 30-year-old, according to the American Optometric Association. At age 60, driving in the dark can become even more difficult.
   Share safety tips from the National Safety Council in an email blast or via your company intranet:
  • Keep vehicle headlights clean and aimed correctly
  • Keep your eyes moving and out of the potentially blinding glare of oncoming lights
  • Slow down to account for limited visibility and to allow for adequate stopping time
  • Schedule an eye exam at least once a year
   Darkness isn’t the only issue to tackle.
   Both “springing head” in March and “falling back” in November can have an impact on circadian rhythm – physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycle. Disturbance of this cycle is a key risk factor for safety incidents and can cause health problems, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Studies also link the act of “falling back” to depression and losing that hour in March can lead to fatigue.
   Fatigue also can be a result of poor sleep habits. Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep to achieve peak performance, but research indicates 3 in 10 get less than six hours. Without adequate sleep, on-the-job performance suffers. Some use the term “presenteeism” to describe people present at work but not functioning at 100% because of fatigue.
   On the road, a fatigued driver is an impaired driver, one who puts himself and others at risk. Last year in Texas, drivers who were fatigued or asleep at the wheel contributed to 9,704 crashes, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. That’s more than 26 crashes every day.
   Did you know?
  • Losing two hours of sleep is similar to the effect of drinking three beers
  • Being awake for more than 20 hours is the equivalent of being legally drunk
   To raise awareness, get the National Safety Council Fatigue Toolkit. The kit is stocked with infographics, fact sheets and posters.