Tuesday, August 08, 2017

FRA, FMCSA withdraw potential rule affecting sleep apnea mitigation

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The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have withdrawn a proposed rule that would have regulated actions addressing sleep apnea for workers in safety sensitive positions.


The FMCSA posted a notice on its website Aug. 4 and the official notice was published in the Federal Register Aug. 8.

In March 2016, the two agencies published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking concerning the prevalence of moderate-to-severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) among individuals occupying safety sensitive positions in highway and rail transportation and its potential consequences for the safety of highway and rail transportation.

FRA and FMCSA say the proposed rule is being withdrawn because they "believe that current safety programs and FRA's rulemaking addressing fatigue risk management are the appropriate avenues to address OSA."

FRA recognized the implementation of OSA identification and treatment programs at several railroads and "anticipates these programs will identify best practices for OSA screening, diagnosis, treatment and mitigation." FRA also noted that the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA) requires railroads to establish a fatigue management plan as part of a Risk Reduction Program (RRP) or System Safety Program (SSP).

"While RSIA does not address OSA by name, FRA believes railroads will consider OSA when addressing medical conditions that affect alertness under a railroad's fatigue risk management plan as part of an RRP or SSP. FRA will continue to monitor railroads' voluntary OSA programs, as well as the implementation of fatigue risk management plans, as part of an RRP or SSP," the agency said in the Federal Register notice.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Most Wanted List for 2017-2018 included a reduction in fatigue-related accidents.

NTSB said it has issued more than 200 safety recommendations addressing fatigue-related problems across all modes of transportation and notes company practices and individual responsibility is key to mitigating the risk.

"Ultimately, fatigue-related accidents can be avoided with a combination of science-based regulations, comprehensive fatigue risk management programs and individual responsibility," NTSB explained in its Most Wanted List fact sheet on fatigue-related accidents.

Sen. Charles Schumer, a long proponent of the testing, urged the agencies to reverse the withdrawal