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Sleep apnea may impact work safety

A New York resident who deals with sleep apnea might think that this personal health matter is nobody else's business. However, a lack of sleep can lead to fatigue during normal activities, including work. Fatigued driving, especially in the trucking industry, has been a matter of public concern for some time, and studies find that when drivers diagnosed with sleep apnea use mandated treatments for their condition, they are significantly less likely to be involved in accidents. Another study suggests that this area of concern might play a significant role in on-the-job safety in other work settings.

A Canadian study team evaluated data for a group of individuals screened for sleep apnea between 2003 and 2011. Of this group, 80 percent actually suffered from the condition. Approximately 5 percent of those without sleep apnea had been affected by workplace injuries, half the percentage of sleep apnea sufferers in the group who were injured on the job. The connections between the condition and injuries on the job were not as strong when various body conditions were considered in relationship to the data. However, the research team agreed that an individual with sleep apnea has a greater chance of workplace injury.

The types of injuries deemed to be most likely for a sleep apnea patient include those in which vigilance is a crucial concern. Car accidents, contact with electricity or fire, and slips and falls are particularly important areas of consideration. Medical treatment for sleep apnea could be an important factor in reducing the risk of workplace injury.

People who are injured at work because of a fatigue-related incident should be able to receive workers' compensation benefits even if the fatigue was due to their own medical condition. An employer's workers' compensation insurance should also cover lost wages if the injuries suffered are serious enough to require an extensive recovery period.

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