Healthy Living

Sleep Apnea and Engineers: Is It Safe to Travel by Train?

Transit companies are just starting to require annual exams to monitor risk factors.

The New Jersey Transit now requires annual physical exams for everyone in their operating crew, which includes brake operators, conductors and engineers. These annual exams are expected to include sleep apnea risk factors as well.

The engineer in the 2016 accident, Thomas Gallagher, had his annual physical exams, but his yearly exams did not include sleep apnea screening. The only screening for sleep apnea recorded for Mr. Gallagher was back in 2013, all of his screening forms after that year could not be located or were incomplete.

It was not until after the train accident that Mr. Gallagher was diagnosed with sleep apnea.

New Jersey Transit is more proactive since the accident. The agency has reported, "We participated in and cooperated fully with the NTSB's investigation and are pleased that the NTSB acknowledged our aggressive sleep apnea screening protocol that mandates all safety-sensitive employees who screen positive be immediately pulled from duty and will only be reinstated in their craft if they get the appropriate medical certification."Although this is too little and a bit too late, companies realize that sleep apnea screening is a definite risk for those who operate the most sensitive equipment on the train.

Photo source: New Hampshire Legal Blog