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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Federal agencies drop proposed rule for sleep apnea


The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration have withdrawn a proposal that would have addressed rail workers and commercial drivers who may be affected by obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), according to a notice published in today's Federal Register.

In March 2016, the agencies announced an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking to collect information on the topic of moderate-to-severe OSA among people who occupy certain jobs in rail and highway transportation.

The agencies also requested information on potential costs and benefits from regulations that would have addressed the safety risks associated with rail and highway workers in "safety sensitive" positions who have OSA. Three listening sessions were held in May 2016 and a comment period was extended by 30 days. More than 700 comments were received from individuals, medical professionals, labor groups and transportation industry representatives.

In their decision published today, the agencies noted that OSA remains an ongoing concern because it can cause unintended sleep episodes that result in loss of attention, concentration, situational awareness and memory that can reduce an individual's capacity to respond to safety hazards.

However, the agencies determined that current safety programs and FRA's rulemaking that addresses risk management are the best way to address OSA, according to the decision.

In December 2016, the FRA issued a safety advisory calling on passenger and commuter railroads to improve safety by screening train operators for sleep apnea. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) announced in April 2016 that it would expand its sleep apnea testing program to the MTA Metro-North Railroad conductors, MTA Long Island Rail Road train crew members and other MTA employees.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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