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Are Your Company Car Drivers Safe?

4th June 2015

If you are involved in the organising or management of company cars, then for the safety of your employees you need to consider the implications of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) and Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Syndrome (OSAS) which are conditions that affect 5% of the population.

Unfortunately they often go undiagnosed which can be a real danger to your company car drivers. These conditions can be a high risk factor for road traffic accidents. Sleeping at the wheel & tiredness is a major contributory factor in up to 20% of motorway accidents and is associated with an increase in the severity of an accident as drivers reaction times are drastically reduced!

Company Car Safety

According to the RAC Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Syndrome (OSAS) is the most common amongst overweight middle-aged men. Many company car drivers fall into this bracket and it is therefore a good idea for businesses to try to raise awareness of these conditions. Studies show that when drivers with undiagnosed or untreated OSAS get behind the wheel, the likelihood of them having an accident is increased between 3 and 9 times and that the accident is likely to be more severe.

The OSA Partnership Group and the DVLA have joined together to raise awareness to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries on UK roads by calling for fast-tracked medical treatment for vocational drivers who have these conditions.

The Group is calling on the Department of Health to issue guidance to hospitals and GPs to fast-track treatment of drivers with OSAS to enable driving again within a maximum of four weeks after their first referral.

Professor John Stradling, a member of the OSA Partnership Group has spent his career working with sleep apnoea patients as a respiratory consultant in Oxford. He says, “In my experience vocational drivers are often the safest on our roads but those with OSAS have no control over their sleepiness. We also know that these drivers are reluctant to come forward with symptoms of OSAS for fear of losing their licence, and therefore their livelihood”.

What is Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA)?

OSA is a condition that affects breathing while you are sleeping, due to partial or total closure of the airway behind the tongue. This:

      • Disrupts your normal breathing pattern
      • Causes your body to briefly wake up to restore normal breathing
      • May prevent you from enjoying a good night’s rest
      • Is nearly always accompanied by loud snoring

What is Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Syndrome (OSAS)?

OSAS is a more severe form of OSA where there is evidence of both a disruption of normal breathing patterns during sleep, and symptoms such as excessive sleepiness in the daytime. OSAS occurs in approximately a quarter of those with OSA. If you suffer from OSAS, the pauses in breathing can happen hundreds of times a night, which most of the time you won’t be aware of. This means you’re getting less of the restorative kind of sleep required to enable you to work with the levels of energy and concentration needed to drive safely.

So How Can You Protect Your Company Car Drivers?

Simply by raising awareness & encouraging your employees to get checked out and assuring them that your company is supportive of these conditions.

As Jenny Powley, RAC Business Corporate Sales Director, states “In the long term business as a whole will benefit as drivers who suspect they may be suffering from OSAS will be able to get the treatment they need and be back on the road much more quickly, which is a better outcome for the business owner, fleet manager and everyone concerned.”

*sources of information – www.rac.co.uk  www.realsleep.co.uk  and www.nhs.uk

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