Fleets are being urged to screen their drivers for sleep apnoea or risk one of them being involved in a serious accident.
Sleep apnoea is a common, under-recognised, but treatable condition that causes people to stop breathing several times per night.
If left untreated can lead to further illness including, type two diabetes, depression and a loss of concentration.
Clinical nurse specialist Rebecca Mullins, from the Real Sleep Centre, said: “You don’t have to be obese to suffer from sleep apnoea.
“Your airway could be quite narrow, you can have enlarged tonsils; there can be a number of reasons behind the condition. You don’t have to be overweight.”
Mullins told Fleet News that the condition was not being recognised by GPs, because the symptoms can easily be confused with a number of other problems.
However, help may be at hand for employers with the Epworth Sleepiness Scale, which consists of eight multiple choice questions.
If a driver scores over a certain level, he/she may be at risk.
“For fleets, this could be incorporated into the occupational health check that employees undergo,” said Mullins.
“However, there is a misconception that drivers diagnosed with sleep apnoea will lose their licence. This is not true at all. As long as the driver complies with their treatment there won’t be a problem.”
An estimated 800,000 people in the UK suffer from poor sleep as a result of the condition and it has been shown that sufferers are more than seven times more likely to have a road traffic accident than people who don’t suffer from the condition.
“We did one pilot study with a large company, because they’d had six fatalities in a single year,” continued Mullins. “They’ve now got screening in place for all their drivers.”
Mullins recommends that all fleets take it on as part of their risk assessment. “However, they need to convince their drivers it’s a question of wanting to make sure they’re as safe as possible on the roads and that they’ll support them if diagnosed with the condition,” said Mullins.