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  • Marco Juarez

Daylight Savings on a Submarine

Seawolf Submarine

It’s been a number of years since I left submarine duty. What a lot of people may not realize is that every ship in the Navy, including submarines, are fully staffed by shift workers. Daylight Savings Time as a shift worker can be another day of getting the short end of the stick – even in the fall. While most people are comfortably getting an extra hour of sleep when the clock “falls back”, night shift workers often find themselves at work for an extra hour – or a half hour if their employers think to split the extra hour with the day shift. Daylight Savings Time still means that both day shift and night shift workers must alter their daily routines to accommodate the change in time. Most Americans are not getting enough sleep, and I know from survey data that shift workers make up a large percentage of those sleep-deprived Americans.

On a submarine, there is no natural light to indicate day or night, but submariners do maintain schedules and are impacted by changes in the clock just like anyone else. On a submarine, however, outside influences like home life, the sun, and a long commute to and from work don’t exist. So as managers, are we considering the health and safety implications of something as simple as the change away from daylight savings time? I wonder how many managers take the time to educate their shift workers on strategies they can use to adapt to the switch and minimize fatigue. Sometimes it is just as simple as being more aware of the time that will be lost sleeping and trying to get a little more the day before.

An interesting note about time change on a submarine – when out at sea for long periods of time, the clock is often changed to reflect “Zulu” time or Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). So, for a submariner, time changes may occur several times a year as they depart and return to port following operations at sea. Couple that with no sunlight for days or weeks at a time and it can be challenging to get accustomed to any time zone. Most submariners just “tough out” the feeling of fatigue.

Don’t let your shift workers just tough out the change back to standard time. Make sure they are getting enough rest, and you should have a plan in place to take care of your people scheduled to work when shiftworkers “Fall Back” and “Spring Forward”.

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