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Sleep apnea may lead to more work injuries

A common sleep disorder could put workers in Pennsylvania and nationwide at greater risk for on-the-job injuries, according to a Canadian study. The research, which was conducted by University of British Columbia researchers, shows that those with obstructive sleep apnea were twice as likely to be injured at work and three times as likely to suffer a concentration-related accident, such as tripping or being electrocuted, than those without the disorder.

According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, approximately 22 million people suffer from obstructive sleep apnea in the United States, though most do not know they have the disorder. The condition causes people to experience frequent sleep disruptions as they repeatedly stop breathing for brief periods, which leads to coughing, gasping and snoring. The constant sleep interruptions leave people feeling fatigued throughout the day.

In the study, researchers tracked the work injury data on 1,236 people who were screened for sleep apnea at a sleep clinic. Of the group, 994 were determined to have sleep apnea and 242 were not. Over the previous five years, 9 percent of the group, or 111 patients, suffered on-the-job injuries. Almost 10 percent of those diagnosed with sleep apnea suffered an occupational injury, but only 5 percent of those without sleep apnea were hurt at work. The authors of the study believe that workers in high-risk jobs should be screened for sleep apnea to prevent workplace accidents.

Workplace accidents force thousands of Pennsylvania employees to seek medical care and miss work every year. Most injured employees are eligible to file for workers' compensation benefits, which pay for medical expenses and a portion of their salary as they recover. Some workers find it helpful to consult an attorney when they prepare their claim.

Source: Reuters, "People with sleep breathing issues more likely to get injured at work," Madeline Kennedy, March 24, 2016

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