Driver training highlights sleep disorder risks - Palmers Solicitors

Driver training highlights sleep disorder risks

A leading transport industry body has launched a new training programme to help raise awareness of a sleep disorder and how it can increase the risk of accidents in HGV drivers.

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) is making the 90-minute training module available free to FTA members and non-members to help make more HGV drivers aware of sleep apnoea and the consequences of not seeking treatment.

Jacqui Hillhouse from the FTA said on 27 November: “This training session focuses on sleep apnoea and can be included within Driver CPC training, outlining the symptoms and treatment that HGV drivers should be aware of.”

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is OSA is a condition that affects breathing while someone is asleep while obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS) is a more severe form of OSA that both disrupts breathing patterns during sleep and causes symptoms such as excessive sleepiness in the daytime.

According to road safety charity Brake, professional drivers are known to be at higher risk for sleep apnoea. Research has suggested that up to 41 per cent of UK HGV drivers have a sleep disorder of some form, with 16 per cent suffering from severe sleep apnoea requiring immediate treatment.

It has been estimated that such drivers with a sleep disorder are between six and 15 times more likely to have a road traffic accident than those without the condition and sleep apnoea can also greatly reduce quality of life, lead to other health problems and even reduce life expectancy.

Professor John Stradling, who has spent his career working with sleep apnoea patients and has helped to develop the training module, said: “It is essential that we make drivers aware of the symptoms of sleep apnoea. It is a condition that can be very easily diagnosed and treated, and following this patients are able to lead normal lives.”

Drivers with OSA, but without daytime sleepiness sufficient to impair driving, do not have to notify the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). However, if they are diagnosed with OSAS they must tell the DVLA and stop driving until the symptoms have been satisfactorily controlled.

If they fail to do so, they can be fined £1,000, or prosecuted if they cause a crash as a result.

Jeremy Sirrell, a partner at Palmers whose expertise includes representation in health and safety prosecutions, said: “Tiredness is a significant cause of accidents, with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents suggesting that driver fatigue may be a contributory factor in up to 20 per cent of these and up to one quarter of fatal and serious accidents.

“Employers of professional drivers need to pay close attention to hours worked, to ensure that drivers do not exceed permitted hours, which could put their employees and others at risk and expose them to risk of prosecution. For more information on our health and safety compliance and representation services, please contact us.”