« Back to Company News

Railway Safety Advisory Promotes Sleep Disorder Self-reporting and Treatment

A Federal Railway Administration (FRA) Notice of Safety Advisory published Dec. 5, 2016, in the Federal Register includes a recommendation for railway operators to review a safety advisory on the Effect of Sleep Disorders on Safety of Railroad Operations with all operating crews. The sleep disorder advisory, 2004-04 (69 FR 58995), was originally issued Oct. 1, 2004.

The newly issued Notice of Safety Advisory stresses the importance of taking action to help mitigate human factor accidents and enhance operations in stations and terminals with stub-end tracks.

The advisory promotes employee medical examinations that include assessment and screening for obstructive sleep apnea and associated medical conditions. It recommends the development of standardized screening tools, or a “good practices guide,” for the diagnosis, referral and treatment of sleep disorders to be used by physicians during routine medical examinations, and the development of qualified sleep disorder center and specialist referral lists.

Additional recommendations include:

  1. Establish training and educational programs to inform employees of the potential for performance impairment as a result of fatigue, sleep loss, sleep deprivation, inadequate sleep quality and working at odd hours.
  2. Document when employees have received training. Incorporate elements that encourage self-assessment, peer-to-peer communication and co-worker identification.
  3. Encourage employees in safety-sensitive positions to voluntarily report any sleep disorder that could be incapacitating or seriously impair performance.
  4. Develop a policy prohibiting an employee with an incapacitating sleep-related medical condition from performing safety-sensitive duties until the condition appropriately responds to treatment.
  5. Implement policies to a) Promote self-reporting by ensuring confidentiality and protecting the employment relationship, provided that the employee complies with the recommended course of treatment; b) Encourage employees with diagnosed sleep disorders to participate in recommended evaluation and treatment; and c) Establish dispute resolution mechanisms that rapidly resolve questions about the current fitness of employees who have reported sleep-related medical conditions and have cooperated in evaluation and prescribed treatment.

For resources, refer to the Railroaders’ Guide to Healthy Sleep.