Time Shift – Keep Yourself Alive

Once again, the time to spring clocks ahead by one hour has arrived. If you live in Puerto Rico, Arizona, or Saskatchewan, there is no need to read further. Your time governors don’t subscribe to Daylight Savings Time. However, if you live in the rest of North America then there is a good chance you are feeling the groggy effects of the bi-annual assault on our body’s internal clock. 

If you already made it safely to work and are reading this (thank you) from the comfort of your office, lunchroom, or cafeteria, congratulations! The Monday following the time shift is notoriously marred by an increase in cuts and burns in the kitchen, spilled hot drinks at the drive-thru, traffic accidents, and tragically, fatalities. 

Hospital visits for heart attacks spike by 24% on this fateful Monday. And if you think it could be a coincidence, you’re right. The opposite happens in the fall time. The extra hour of sleep from setting clocks back an hour nets a decrease in heart attack related ER visits by 21%. There’s got to be something in those statistics that makes you go “hmmm”. 

And I’ll bet you didn’t know that while Monday’s are historically down days on financial markets anyways, the Monday following Daylight Savings Time is much worse. The S&P Index (Standard and Poor’s) is widely regarded as the best single barometer of large-cap US stocks. Over the last 14 years, Monday’s equate to an average of being down 0.03%. That contrasts with an average drop of 0.24% on the Monday after DST. The combined value of North American stock markets declines by $31 billion on this fateful day. Could there be a correlation between investor sentiment and lack of sleep? 

The main reason we change our clocks in the spring to so-called “summer time” is to make full use of the extra daylight. Some sources cite DST as a product of WWI and the need to conserve electricity. Others suggest it was implemented for agricultural purposes and allowed farmers more daylight time to work the fields and harvest crops. What was perhaps not considered during the framing of this legislation was the negative impact it would pose on our health and safety. 

Neuroscientist and sleep researcher Matthew Walker advocates for doing away with this arcane practice. He argues that the impact on our master body clock of just one hour less (or more) sleep is enough to throw us into chaos. Your body clock is “fragile and susceptible… to even just one hour of lost sleep,” cites Walker, author of “How We Sleep.” Resetting our sleep cycle can take days or weeks and during this time we are all at greater risk. 

For reliability professionals working around heavy assets, the exposure to risk is already high. One study often related by Reliabilityweb.com’s Terrence O’Hanlon, describes just how risky it is to be a twenty-something maintenance worker. The likelihood of being killed on the job is significantly higher for maintenance technicians than it is for firefighters, police officers, and other front line first responders. On this day, more than others, the risk to your safety is in the red zone and you are urged to take care.

The likelihood of being killed on the job is significantly higher for maintenance technicians than it is for firefighters, police officers, and other front line first responders.

A 2016 study by Dupont reported that the most likely person to be injured or killed on the job was a maintenance worker with less than two years’ experience. Injury and death statistics cast an added macabre shadow. It turns out that the chance of becoming a statistic rises significantly for victims engaged in performing reactive, emergency work. If that’s not a siren call to reliability leadership then I don’t know what is.

The takeaway is obviously to work conscientiously, safely, carefully, etc… While the campaigns to do away with Daylight Savings Time once and for all play out, we are stuck with today’s reality; at least for now. You are going to feel tired for a few days while your body clock adjusts. If you have young kids, they suffer even more, so be extra patient and kind. That goes for work colleagues, friends, and even strangers. Hold a door open for someone, smile and say hello, give someone that parking spot even if you believe you were there first, and yield to traffic even if you think you have the right of way. And there’s a good chance you might be running late for a meeting, appointment, or the start of your shift. Slow down, you’ll get there eventually, and you’ll be alive.

If you work in maintenance, reliability, or other trades that put you in line for potential danger, take extra time today to think about your personal safety and the safety of those working with you. It’s easy to say, “I’m tired” and cut corners. But today, of all days, when some of us are walking around as sleep depraved zombies, go the extra mile and stay safe, or, in the words of rock legend Freddy Mercury, “keep yourself alive”.

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