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Sleep Apnea Increases Risk of On-the-job Injury

According to a University of British Columbia, Vancouver study, individuals with sleep apnea have a substantially greater risk of on-the-job injuries than those without the condition. In fact, people with a severe case of the breathing disorder, known as obstructive sleep apnea, have nearly double the risk of being injured in a work-related accident.

The patients in the study, which observed 1,236 individuals over an eight year period, underwent polysomnography to identify obstructive sleep apnea.  A.J. Hirsch Allen, PhD, a research associate at the university, noted that the risk is even more serious when other confounding factors are present. These include obesity, alcohol use, sex, and blue-collar industry occupations. “Screening and treatment of workers with obstructive sleep apnea may reduce rates of injury,” said Hirsch Allen.

Risk of Motor Vehicle Accident 7 to 8 Times Greater For Those With Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

Commenting on the study’s findings, past president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, M. Safwan Badr, MD, believes the study reinforces what we already know about sleep apnea and everyday injuries. “The large number of patients in the study is one of its strengths. This is a naturalistic experiment. This is what is happening in real life,” said Badr,  “We know that persons with obstructive sleep apnea are 7 to 8 times more likely to be involved in a motor vehicle accident either because of sleepiness or loss of vigilance or they distract themselves to stay awake. This study now extends this to occupational injury.”

Injuries are most common while performing work-related activities that require an increased level of vigilance, such as operating machinery or driving a motor vehicle. Sleep specialists understand the risk of on-the-job fatigue, especially in blue-collar jobs. With real data now backing up what physicians and sleep specialists already know, some experts believe that effort needs to be made to identify workers with sleep-related breathing disorders. Being drowsy or fatigued on-the-job presents a risk to the worker and everyone else he or she works with. According to Badr, “This work strengthens the case for identifying and treating these patients.” Such a program may actually result in significant cost savings for the employer.

In addition to an increased risk of on-the-job injuries, sleep problems also increase the risk of mortality, obesity, and diabetes. Some studies show that up to 40 percent of the US population suffers from insomnia, and up to 10 percent suffers from obstructive sleep apnea. Unfortunately, these numbers are only continuing to grow. Additionally, overall work-related accidents cost over $1.25 million annually. In fact, approximately 960,000 occupational injuries are reported every day. As sleep disorders continue to affect more and more US workers, countermeasures and programs should be implemented to prevent serious accident and injury.

Altman & Altman, LLP – Boston’s Work Injury Lawyers

If you have been injured on-the-job, you have rights. At Altman & Altman, LLP, we have nearly 50 years of experience protecting the rights of Boston’s workforce. Our knowledgeable legal team will evaluate the details of your case, and help you determine the best way to move forward. You may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and other associated costs. Contact Altman & Altman, LLP today for a free consultation about your case.

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