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Sleeping disorders linked to workplace accidents

Pennsylvania residents are unlikely to be surprised to learn that individuals with sleep disorders are involved in more fatigue-related accidents both at work and on the road, but they may not be aware of just how many people unknowingly suffer from conditions like obstructive sleep apnea. Medical experts believe that as many as 22 million Americans have the nocturnal breathing disorder, but the condition remains undiagnosed in the vast majority of cases.

Many highway and workplace safety advocates have called for wider obstructive sleep apnea screening, and research published on March 15 in the medical journal Thorax will likely add fuel to these arguments. Canadian researchers studied the cases of 994 obstructive sleep apnea sufferers, and they compared their work injury records with those of 242 individuals who had been screened and found not to be suffering from the condition.

The findings revealed that obstructive sleep apnea sufferers were about twice as likely as non-sufferers to be injured at work and about three times as proneto be involved in an accident related to fatigue or reduced vigilance. Researchers were quick to point out that the 242 patients who made up the study's control group had been admitted to a Vancouver hospital for sleep apnea screening because they were experiencing sleeping problems of one sort or another, and they believe that comparing the accident rates of sleep apnea sufferers with workers who routinely enjoy peaceful and uninterrupted sleep could produce even more compelling results

.Those who are injured at work due to fatigue may choose to file a workers' compensation claim, but attorneys with experience in this area could recommend that they file a lawsuit instead in certain situations. Employers may face litigation from injured workers when their actions are so reckless that it could be viewed as a malicious intent to cause harm, and compelling employees to keep working past the point of exhaustion may be that type of behavior.

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Gregory R. Gifford
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