The dangers of darker days
23 January 2013
When the clocks go back in the autumn there is an increased risk of certain accidents and injuries.Paul Cartwright offers some advice on the measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of incidents assocated with darke
Every autumn, clocks across the UK are rolled back an hour. Mornings stay darker for longer, nights draw in and for many, it heralds the start of winter.
The risks that arise when the clocks go back are serious enough for the Government to have announced plans to investigate extending British Summer Time throughout the year.
In its report Improving road safety for pedestrians and cyclists in Great Britain the House of Commons Transport Committee concluded that the period at the end of British Summer Time - immediately after the clocks go back - is a particularly dangerous period for road travel.
The Department goes further to say it has strong evidence that more than 80 fewer people would be killed each year on the UK's roads if the Government amended the arrangements for changing the clocks in the winter and summer.
However slight, the Government report shows that darker mornings and evenings, combined with colder and wetter weather expected in autumn, increase the risks of having an accident on the road.
In the first few days after the clocks go back, it is important even if you are familiar with the route you take to work to be extra vigilant, and look out for cyclists and pedestrians who may be wearing darker-coloured clothing. Commuters who walk or cycle should consider wearing high visibility clothing to help drivers see them.
It's not just commuting to work in the dark that can cause problems, but accidents can also happen in the workplace. This is especially true for outdoor occupations such as construction, farming and delivery services, which may be working in darkness in the early morning and late evening.
Those working either mainly or partly outdoors should try to schedule a later start in the mornings and earlier finish in the evenings, as illuminating an outdoor workplace such as a farm or site can be difficult.
If employees use vehicles such as forklift trucks in warehouses, ensure that the vehicle is fitted with lights and is in good working order.
Around the workplace, ensure car parks and pathways are welllit.
If staff are first to arrive in the morning, make sure they know where interior light switches are located, so they don't have to walk through an empty building in darkness to turn them on.
Ensure pathways are clear and interior spaces are tidy, and that there are no boxes in the corridor, to avoid slips, trips and falls in the low light. If there are dark areas in the workplace, consider putting in lighting in these areas.
Finally, if you manage or are responsible for maintaining the building, check any external lights are working, as they may not have been used for a number of months. If lights are on a timer, check that this is reset to reflect the time change. If the lighting system works on sensors, check they are set correctly, ready for use, and that any dead bulbs have been replaced.
The benefit of the clocks going back may be an extra hour in bed, but failing to manage the risks associated with those darker mornings and nights could result in some sleepless nights for businesses.
Paul Cartwright is principal consultant at Aviva Risk Management Solutions and has over 25 years experience in consultancy and training specialising in particular in the NEBOSH National Certificate and Diploma programmes
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