Winter ills – the risks to workplace safety

Many of us have been struggling of late with coughs and colds, and some even with flu. We are fortunate that we have access to a wide range of over-the-counter preparations to help alleviate the symptoms caused by these viral infections.

Whilst they can help us to continue working by relieving the debilitating symptoms, some medication may have an effect on our ability to work safely. This is particularly true of any painkillers or anti-inflammatory medication that is mixed with opiates and some decongestant medication.
There are a few ways in which you can minimize the risks associated with over-the-counter medication in your workplace.

Drug and Alcohol Policy
You can make sure that your drug and alcohol policy makes it clear what employees should do if they are taking potentially impairing medication, and what actions you as employers should then take to deal with them whilst they are taking the medication.

Employee Awareness
Educate your employees in what they need to do when being prescribed medication, or when buying over-the-counter medication. Make sure they understand that they need to make their GP or pharmacist aware of what they do for a living, and ask them if the medication has the potential to cause impairment.

Medication Checking Service
You can sign up for a medication checking service, where your managers and supervisors can call in and ask for advice on the potential that any medication, or combination of medication will have for impairment, and what options there are to mitigate against that potential impairment.

The impact of medication is something that should be considered all year, but may well be greater at this time of year, as well as the summer months when hay fever season kicks in.

Peter Akrill
Senior Toxicologist

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