OSHA has been petitioned by a number of advocacy groups and individuals to issue regulations that would limit the work hours of resident physicians.

In response, OSHA has promised to review and consider the petition, noting that there is mounting concern about medical residents working extremely long hours. There is evidence linking sleep deprivation with an increased risk of needle sticks, puncture wounds, lacerations, medical errors, and motor vehicle accidents, says the agency.

OSHA also noted that the connection between long hours, worker fatigue and safety is a concern beyond medical residents. For example, in its investigation of the root causes of the BP Texas City oil refinery explosion in 2005, which killed 15 workers and injured 170, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board identified worker fatigue and long work hours as a likely contributing factor.

For more information on the topic: www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/workschedules/.