Time to Change?
Time to change?
This weekend, as Saturday transitions into Sunday the clocks spring forward an hour into British Summer Time. But does that mean an extra spring in your step? (Thanks to a timely reminder of the catchphrase ‘Spring Forward, Fall Back’ I finally know which way to ‘turn’ my clocks).
Normally I’m not that busy on the weekend so just sleep until I wake up so this missing hour doesn’t normally have an impact. Yes, I am still bathing in the luxury of being single and childless (Got to look on the bright side when I can). This year I actually have something planned (attending the Southern Script Festival) so I am not looking forward to losing an hour’s sleep, not being a morning person at the best of times. I remember once turning up late to the cinema because I’d forgotten to change the clocks.
I was sent a discussion piece on this very topic which I share below.
Marc Clavereau, managing director at Bodet, a specialist in time, has discussed the debate about whether the UK should stop the GMT and BST changes from an economic and safety point of view.
BST vs. GMT – Economy vs. Safety
The debate about whether we should stop changing the clocks in the UK back and forth between BST and GMT is gaining momentum. The Daylight Saving Bill 2010-11, a Private Member’s Bill that was presented in Parliament on 30th June 2010, requires the Secretary of State to conduct a thorough analysis of the potential costs and benefits of adopting Single Double Summer Time (SDST) in the UK, which would mean clocks move forward by one hour throughout the year to GMT+1 in winter and GMT+2 in the summer.
Many people argue that they have no opinion on the subject and it affects their lives very little so why change it after so many years? Others argue that with the current economic uncertainty a move to SDST would bring the UK’s waking hours more into line with the hours of daylight, which could potentially reduce energy demand and cut fuel bills.
A Cambridge University study in 2009 showed that 934GWhs of electricity and subsequently 472,000 tonnes of CO2 could have been saved annually by putting the clocks forward an hour all year.
The Daily Express is just one supporter of the crusade to end the BST/GMT time change and it is calling on the Government to move UK time forward by an hour permanently, bringing the country into line with much of the rest of Europe. The publication’s crusade has already won the backing of politicians such as David Cameron and campaigners who say longer, brighter evenings would make roads safer. Many say it would boost the nation’s health by encouraging more leisure activities, cut energy bills, benefit the environment and boost tourism by as much as £1billion a year.
However the most important question the BST/GMT change raises is whether we focus more on the economic benefits or safety issues and what are the compelling factors of each argument?
In August this year at a tourism industry event in London David Cameron said he was considering moving the clocks forward an hour all year round to give Britain permanent summertime (BST). It’s estimated a clock change will lead to the creation of 60,000–80,000 new jobs in leisure and tourism, bringing an extra £2.5–3.5 billion into the economy each year.
According to the National Grid the potential impact of moving the clocks forward an hour between November and March showed that 885GWhs of electricity could have been saved. The UK’s average daily demand for electricity could also have been reduced, with a reduction in peak demand for electricity of up to 4.3%. The electricity wasted on GMT could potentially supply nearly 200,000 households and around 447,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions could be avoided, the equivalent to more than 50,000 cars driving around the world.
SDST could also lower electricity bills by maximising the available daylight and reducing peak power demand, which could help both the economy by reducing business and consumer energy bills and increasing cash flow.
The move could also save the NHS around £138 million a year through reducing road casualties.
All of these are extremely compelling figures and the few negative opinions such as the cost of patching every computer in the country to cope with the change to SDST and the Scots being against the idea because it would mean the sun not rising until 10am on some mornings, are heavily outweighed by the economical and financial benefits for everyone.
Health and Safety
David Cameron has said the plan, which would give longer evenings across the country, will only go ahead if the Scots and people in the north of England agree. However many feel that if people further south in the UK want more daylight they should simply get up earlier. One consistent finding by the University of Cambridge is that activity patterns are more intensive later in the day and that people generally adjust their return from work in winter, to clock time rather than the time of sunset.
So what are the safety issues and is there evidence to suggest that moving the clocks forward in the UK could result in higher risks to safety?
Sunrise and sunset timed an hour later would shift light to the period of the day when electricity demand is heaviest and reduce peaks. Activity patterns also affect timing of traffic flows and road accidents in Britain; there are more road users later in the day, including in Scotland, so later timing of sunset could potentials reduce road accidents.
Many people prefer not to go to work in the dark during the winter months however when considering the economic benefits against the somewhat minor lifestyle compromises it seems the SDST plan should be given serious consideration. A survey carried out by MORI recently showed that 52% of those questioned in London and 50% of Scottish respondents disagreed that they would find it harder to get up in the morning if SDST was implemented. More than two-thirds (69%) felt that they would feel safer walking outside after dark.
The Sports Council for England has stated that an increase in extra daylight after work, combined with its policy priority to get employers to do more in terms of promoting activity among its work forces, could make a significant contribution towards driving up participation in sports and delivering the associated health benefits that would stem from having a more active nation.
Greg Lewis, Policy Manager for Communities and Society at Age Concern and Help the Aged has also commented that many older people will not go out once it is dark and having lighter evenings would mean that older people could spend more time out of their homes if they choose to do so. Given the significant recent rises in energy prices, reducing household energy bills is also a further benefit.
Another important point to be considered is the safety of children walking to and from school and people commuting to and from work. From November to February (GMT) many students would be walking to school before sunrise and cyclists and motorists commuting to work on frosty mornings in the dark raises the issue of road traffic accidents. It does however beg the question, how do commuters who work night shifts or longer hours, with earlier starts than the rest of us manage to keep themselves safe on our roads? It seems many people would rather make the compromise of commuting to work in the dark if it means having a little more light in the evening to enjoy when they get home.
Problems arise when morning rather than evening daylight is considered most important; this is why the traditional opponents of darker mornings have been postal workers, the construction industry, farmers and the Scots, who have a shorter winter day and are particularly worried about children going to school on dark mornings.
There are other issues associated with SDST, especially for farmers, builders and children travelling to school. In mid winter GMT, farm vehicles using unlit country roads in bad weather conditions getting stock to market face huge difficulties in loading and unloading before daylight. The intense cold before sunrise and dangerous situations on building sites, even when lit, are far worse on GMT. Postmen, Post Office engineers, municipal workers and delivery drivers too all suffer a marked decline in their working conditions on GMT, which highlights the safety argument for not moving to SDST. These issues must be considered and resolved adequately for everyone to agree on the most appropriate time zone for the UK.
Whatever the outcome of the GMT/BST debate, UK clocks will still need to “spring forward and fall back” an hour each year. There are ways of managing time accurately and the time change on 31st October is a fairly simple process and usually just involves pushing the minute hand round once; many people make the mistake of pushing the hour hand, which can displace the hour hand and mean it does not tell the correct time. In larger organisations where there are numerous synchronised clocks you only need to change time of the master clock, the slave clocks will automatically coordinate themselves with the master clock. Bodet, a specialist time solutions provider has developed a wide range of analogue and digital clocks including calendar and time zone clocks that make the change from GMT to BST effortless and straightforward.
Bodet suggests the following steps for managing the change from GMT to BST:
·List all the clocks in your organisation to ensure you don’t forget any.
·Change all the clocks systematically so that you only need to do the job once.
·Change all of the clocks at the end of the day before the official time change to ensure all clocks are accurate for the start of business the next day.
·Send out reminders to employees and colleagues to ensure everyone’s personal clocks are synchronised (no excuse for being late to work).
·Allow for any delay during the change process i.e. if it takes 30mins to change all the clocks ensure you take this into account when setting the times.
·Remember the phrase “Spring forward, fall back” to avoid adjusting clocks the wrong way.
I was also informed that David Cameron is on a drive to look again at switching permanently to British Summer Time (BST) and ending clocks going back an hour in winter. Marc’s balanced article presents some compelling arguments both for and against a Single Double Summer Time, but doesn’t mention the mouthful of a name change.
I personally struggle with change and managing time in general and I quite like the bliss of gaining that extra hour in autumn but as a night owl and not a lark I can see potential benefits of more light hours after work, but getting up in the dark also seems wrong. To be honest I will go with the general consensus as long as my TV guide keeps telling me what date to change my clock.
What do you all think?
Parents, is it better to have more light in the morning or evening?
OTs, what do you think about the arguments about the benefits to older people’s occupational participation? (A possible area for occupational science research?)
Writers, what impact do yiu think a change would have on your writing routine?
Everyone, what are your personal views?