Sleep disorders could increase risk of workplace injury

Many North Carolina residents could have problems with sleep apnea and be completely unaware of it. Statistics suggest that as many as 22 million individuals across the country have the condition, and a large part of this group suffers without realizing it. Unfortunately, what these individuals don't know could hurt them, especially in high-risk work environments.

A Canadian study of information from approximately 1,200 patients screened for sleep apnea between 2003 and 2011 found that nearly 1,000 actually had the condition. Among this group, nearly 10 percent had been injured on the job. Of the more than 200 patients screened and found not to have sleep apnea, only about 5 percent had suffered work-related injuries in the past. Researchers indicate that the correlation between work injuries and sleep apnea appears to be strong in light of the data, but with some adjustments based on other health and physical issues, the correlation is a bit weaker.

While this small study provides a little bit of support for the idea that sleep apnea sufferers could be more prone to getting hurt on the job, a separate study of truck drivers suggests that the correlation is much stronger. Truckers diagnosed with the condition were found to be five times less apt to be involved in accidents if they followed appropriate treatment requirements. The potential for being injured on the job could be particularly high for those dealing with sleep disorders while working in jobs that pose risks of vehicle accidents, involve contact with hot or chemical materials, or require the use of dangerous mechanical equipment.

A construction worker who is involved in a serious accident on the job might face questioning about the safety protocols used and the activities leading up to the incident. Even if fatigue related to a health condition such as sleep apnea or another disease is suspected, an employee should be able to receive workers' compensation benefits to cover medical needs.

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