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Sleep apnea could increase risk of workplace injuries

The American Sleep Apnea Association estimates that as many as 22 million individuals throughout the nation suffer from sleep apnea, but in many cases, the condition has not been diagnosed. Texas workers who are not aware that they have this condition could struggle with fatigue on a daily basis, which could translate into greater risk of work-related injury problems. A Canadian study compared statistics on workplace incidents involving those with and without the condition, finding that someone with sleep apnea was twice as likely to experience such issues as someone without the disorder.

The types of work accidents most likely for a sleep apnea sufferer include those involving inadequate vigilance. Examples would include burns, tripping and falling, and auto accidents. A workplace injury was not any more likely for severe cases than for mild cases of the condition. Researchers indicate that the study might provide an important basis for enhanced training and vigilance in industries with high levels of safety risk. A separate study evaluated results in the trucking industry, where accidents were found to be significantly less likely when drivers adhered to required treatment for their sleep apnea.

Because many individuals don't realize that they are dealing with this condition, it could be difficult to attribute an accident strictly to this issue. It is also helpful for workers to remember that a work-related accident should still be covered through the workers' compensation system even if fatigue related to sleep apnea may have contributed to the incident.

An individual whose employer interferes with a workers' compensation claim because of that worker's health condition might find it helpful to discuss the situation with a lawyer to review the details of the given incident and the actions of the employer after the fact. A lawyer might provide insight about a claim that has been unfairly denied or might help in compiling medical records and other relevant data for a complex case.

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