The National Safety Commission Alerts

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

New Obstructive Sleep Apnea Guidelines for Commercial Drivers Recommended by Joint Task Force

Sleep Apnea Contributes to Significant Number of Annual Vehicle Collisions

People who drive for a living should take extra precautions about fighting tiredness and staying alert, particularly so if they have (OSA), which has been shown to cause fatigue-related crashes. Currently, testing and treatment procedures for OSA in commercial drivers are founded on a Federal Highway Administration report that was done in 1991. Yet these recommendations have not been updated to reflect the latest research and medical discoveries in the past 15 years.

Recently, a joint task force of the American College of Chest Physicians, American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, and the National Sleep Foundation has released new guidelines, based on a comprehensive review of recent research on OSA. These guidelines include more comprehensive screening and evaluation procedures and more detailed criteria for return visits and recertification.

"With recommendations based on current literature, and accepted by both occupational medicine and sleep medical organizations, a more consistent process for medical certification of these drivers can occur, decreasing the risk of crashes," said Natalie P. Hartenbaum, MD, MPH, FACOEM, American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Under existing guidelines, drivers are prohibited from returning to work for at least one month after being diagnosed with OSA. The new joint task force proposes to permit drivers in some cases to return to work after 2 weeks of beginning treatment. "Sleep apnea is a highly treatable disorder. The new return-to-work standards we suggest are more reflective of current clinical knowledge related to the treatment of sleep apnea," Barbara Phillips, MD, FCCP, National Sleep Foundation Chairman, said. "With appropriate therapy and compliance, drivers who suffer from sleep apnea will be addressing a significant risk for impaired performance on the job as well as their overall health."

The National Safety Commission recommends The Driver Education Handbook for Parents as a valuable teaching tool for parents who are concerned with their teen's driving safety and understand the value of quality instruction.

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