What can I do as an employer?
Workplace sleep disorder screening and treatment program
Workplace sleepiness is a known risk factor for accidents and injuries, particularly for night shift workers. Sleepiness on-the-job also increases presenteeism and reduces productivity. While these risks exist due to sleepiness for any reason, workers with undiagnosed sleep disorders pose an additional health and safety risk to themselves, their colleagues and the general public. Sleepiness and sleep disorders also cost businesses money; in addition to the health-related costs due to accidents, injuries and poor worker health, which are relatively easy to measure, sleep disorders also lower productivity which is sometimes harder to detect.
It makes good business sense to invest in programs to help reduce sleep and sleepiness to reduce these identifiable and preventable factors that affect your bottom line.
There are a number of different ways in which a sleep disorders program can be rolled out. Businesses should review what might work best for them and, if you need to call in an expert for advice, you can contact the CRC for Alertness, Safety and Productivity who can further discuss these approaches with you.
Screening for Sleep Disorders
A number of examples of successful sleep disorders screening, referral and treatment interventions have been published in peer-reviewed medical journals.
Sleep Health Program (SHP)
A workplace-based Sleep Health Program (SHP) was developed for firefighters, incorporating sleep health education and sleep disorders screening, plus sleep clinic referrals for respondents who screened positive for a sleep disorder (Sullivan et al., 2017). Using departmental records, firefighters who assigned to intervention stations that participated in education sessions, and who had the opportunity to complete sleep disorders screening, reported 46% fewer disability days than those assigned to control stations. Firefighters who attended education sessions were 24% less likely to file at least one injury report during the study than those who did not attend.
Employee-mandated Program for Truck Drivers
In truck drivers, Schneider National, Inc., a major North American trucking firm, implemented an employee-mandated OSA screening, diagnosis, and treatment program that resulted in about half the workforce being screened by a questionnaire and over 2,000 individuals referred to and assessed in sleep clinics. Diagnosis and treatment were covered without co-pays as preventive medicine for drivers carrying the firm's voluntary medical insurance plan (Berger et al., 2012). An analysis of the impact of the program showed that drivers who did not adhere to the positive airway pressure treatment for OSA had nearly 5-times higher risk of a reportable crash than matched controls (Burks et al., 2016).
Fatigue Management Program
In Australian truck drivers, failure to complete a fatigue management training program was associated with a 6-fold increased odds of having a crash (Meuleners et al., 2015), suggesting such programs can be useful in their own right even without screening for sleep disorder.