How SMEs can protect against risks as the clocks go back

25th October 2019

For many the biggest advantage is an extra hour in bed but when the clocks go back at 2am this Sunday (27 October) a range of businesses, from farms to construction firms, that require daylight for personnel to operate will embrace the lighter mornings with an overwhelming sense of relief.

The idea of daylight saving was introduced by Edwardian builder William Willett – also the great-great-grandfather of Coldplay’s Chris Martin – in 1907. A fan of the outdoors, he campaigned for the clocks to be changed because he was concerned that people were wasting daylight hours in the summer when the sun rose earlier.

It was also argued that longer evenings would reduce energy consumption, helping to boost the economy as well as the nation’s health and happiness. Seven years later, British Summer Time (BST) was adopted on 21 May 1916 following the implementation of daylight saving patterns across Europe.

The key benefit of the clocks going back is lighter mornings and making the most of the available daylight. But inevitably it also means darker evenings, which critics of daylight saving claim are more dangerous, putting wellbeing and lives at stake.

According to road safety charity Brake, which is calling for changes that would deliver extended daylight in the evening, there is a greater risk of road accidents in November with the advent of darker evenings. Research suggests that serious and fatal pedestrian collisions rise by 10% in the four weeks after the clocks go back.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has also highlighted the risks of increased road casualties during the darker evenings. Statistics published by the organisation show that in 2017 pedestrian deaths rose from 37 in September to 46 in October, 63 in November, and 50 in December, while casualty rate for all road users increased from 520 per billion vehicle miles in October to 580 per billion vehicle miles in November.

The European parliament recently backed proposals to end the seasonal clock changes in 2021 and create extra usable daylight.

However, Brexit or not, there remains significant opposition to changing daylight saving in the UK, especially in parts of Scotland where the sun would not rise until 10am if we didn’t revert to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) at the close of the summer months.

To help keep staff and stakeholders safe, businesses should take extra steps to avoid accidents as the evenings become darker.

Vehicle and fleet insurance must be kept up to date and health and safety policies should be reviewed and revised where necessary.

Staff working outdoors should be equipped with high visibility protective clothing and it is crucial that there is adequate lighting installed in and around workplaces.

When the weather deteriorates signage should be used to alert workers and the public of slippery surfaces which are not visible when daylight fades.

Jelf offer a dedicated risk management service to help SME clients be prepared for any challenges they may face. After conducting an initial audit, the risk management team will deliver their recommendations which can range from providing access to online health and safety templates or a telephone helpline, to spending time at businesses and carrying out a full, bespoke health and safety assessment.

Even the smallest of changes can make a significant difference to improving safety as the longer nights draw in.

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