It’s not just alcohol or illegal drugs that affect safety at your workplace. Medications can also impact workers and their colleagues
It’s easy to think that medications are fairly harmless, particularly if they are over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, but this is far from the truth. OTC medications, especially if not used according to instructions, can cause side effects (dizziness, drowsiness and impaired cognition) that will affect your ability to work safely. Over 11 per cent of workers in Australia admit to misusing medication, so the chances are that these substances are affecting your organisation.
Take painkillers, for instance. Typically prescribed for both acute and chronic pain, strong painkillers can be effective for short periods of time, but have been proven to lose effectiveness quickly and can cause dependence. These medications can be dangerous in increased doses or when combined with alcohol or other drugs.
Common side effects of codeine, an OTC medication, include: dizziness, tiredness, confusion, difficulty concentrating, and blurred vision – all of which can affect workplace performance. Employees can start to make errors, silly mistakes and poor decisions.
All workers have a duty to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and ensure they don’t adversely affect that of others. This means they must be fit and well enough to do their job, not be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or use alcohol or illegal drugs while at work. In some jobs such as road and rail transport, maritime and mining occupations, the law may prohibit a worker from being affected by any drugs – legal or illegal. If you are in a job where you operate a vehicle or machinery, or perform other safety-sensitive activities, you should always read and act on any warnings against operating machinery, and potential drowsiness or dizziness.
Do a trial run of a new medication outside of work. You won’t know how a medication will affect you until you are actually taking it.