Is sleep apnea testing required by law in any industries?

Q:

Is sleep apnea testing required by law in any industries?

A:

Currently, there are no federal laws requiring sleep apnea testing for any industry or group of employees (Learn more in "What Happens When Your Employees Have Sleep Apnea?"). However, it is possible that testing may be required for some industries in the future.


In 2016, the U.S. federal government began collecting public comments on the possibility of requiring sleep apnea testing for some employees in the transportation industry such as commercial vehicle drivers and train operators. But as of yet, no such requirement exists. Instead, testing requirements are determined by qualified medical professionals on a case by case basis.


For example, at present, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation 391.41(b) effectively permits individuals to drive a commercial motor vehicle if they do not have a medical condition that would interfere with their ability to do so. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires select individuals in the transportation industry to undergo regular physicals. Further, the FMCSA Medical Examiner Handbook provides guidelines to assist medical examiners in determining when it might be appropriate to require sleep apnea testing but does not direct that testing be performed. The decision to require testing for a specific individual is left to the discretion of the medical examiner.


Until 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) imposed a narrow screening process based on pilots’ BMI to determine when mandatory sleep apnea testing was required. In 2015, the FAA issued a statement modifying its guidance to allow more discretion on the part of FAA medical examiners to determine when sleep apnea testing would be required for an individual pilot.


Because of the increased focus on sleep apnea as a potential factor in many transportation related accidents, it is likely that the concept of mandatory testing will continue to receive attention. Additionally, individual states may impose regulations on safety-related industries that supplement federal laws. Thus, employers should check regularly with their governing health and safety agencies at both the state and federal level for updated information regarding this topic.

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Written by John Hawes
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John Hawes is the CCO and co-founder at SureHire Occupational Health Testing. John graduated in 2001 from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Science degree in physical therapy. As a former physical therapist, John uses his knowledge of physical therapy and interest in ergonomics and biomechanics to devise fit for work testing.

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