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Should We Get Rid Of Daylight Savings Time?

Clocks going back puts
workplaces in the dark

Putting the clocks back is always a gloomy prospect and every year it stimulates debate about whether the UK should continue to change its clocks every six months.

Several schemes have been proposed which include scrapping the annual shift between BST and Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) or sticking with BST and adding another hour in springtime. This would put the UK one hour ahead of GMT in winter and two hours ahead during summer.

Those in favour of changing the system argue that nowadays the majority of people start work between 8am and 9am so they sleep through the extra hour of daylight in the morning and finish work when it’s dark.

They also say that an extra hour of daylight in the evening has a positive impact on health and wellbeing, as well as increasing opportunities for outdoor leisure activities, making it easier for people to stay fit. Plus, there’s an environmental argument about how much energy businesses and homes use each evening during the extra hour of darkness.

Significant opposition to such a move comes from Scotland where the changes would mean darker mornings, creating greater danger for children going to school and more road accidents. Industries such as farming and construction, which traditionally start work early, are also concerned that their work in the mornings will be delayed. However, in 2010 the Policy Studies Institute backed the potential changes to the law, concluding that the benefits would far outweigh the disadvantages, even in Scotland.

There was in fact an experiment to introduce GMT + 1 hour all year round by Harold Wilson’s government between 1968 and 1971, and while accident numbers increased in the mornings, the numbers decreased considerably in the evenings. However opposition to the change was still strong and the Heath cabinet voted to stop the experiment in 1970.

Many of the issues raised can be solved by businesses simply investing in outside lighting, either attached to buildings for security and to guide the way, or portable work lights so employees can start work at the usual time. Workers and school children alike can also wear hi-visibility clothing to try and reduce accidents.

This discussion has raged on for decades, and despite both Labour and the Conservatives supporting the change before the general election last year, nothing has as yet been put into place; so watch this space, perhaps from 2012 we may not all have to leave work in the dark.

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