Are OTC and Prescribed Medications Endangering Your Workplace?

Are OTC and Prescribed Medications Endangering Your Workplace?

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, an estimated 8 percent of the U.S. population over the age of 12 has used illegal drugs in the last 30 days. Drug abuse costs employers $81 billion annually, causing increased absenteeism, carelessness and mistakes while decreasing safety and productivity. Given those figures, it’s easy to see why so many of America’s employers test their workers for illicit substances. However, far too few extend their caution to OTC and prescription medications. These drugs—while legal—can be equally dangerous in the workplace.

If you’d like to make sure your workers are using legal medications safely, you may want to include prescription and OTC medication use guidelines as part of your workplace safety program. Topics to address include:

Reading labels – If your employees are taking an OTC or prescription drug, they must read the label carefully. They should understand how the medication may potentially affect them, and look for warnings related to operating machinery and drowsiness or dizziness side effects. If the drug could affect their ability to perform work safely, they should notify a supervisor to discuss alternate assignments.

Testing prescriptions – Whenever a doctor prescribes a new drug for an employee, he or she should take the first dose at home, not at the workplace. Medications can cause different effects in different people—those listed on the label may not apply to everyone. The same goes for OTC drugs. Your workers should have a good understanding of how it will affect them before they take it on the job.

Avoiding interactions – Whenever an employee takes multiple medications in conjunction, drug interactions become a danger. Your workers should speak to their doctor or pharmacist before they take multiple medications or combine medications with herbal supplements. If effects that may impact their work performance are likely, they should seek alternatives or advise a supervisor.

Consider work conditions – Temperature and other factors can amplify the side effects of any particular medication. For example, if an OTC cold medication causes drowsiness, that drowsiness is likely to be more extreme if the employee has to work in heated conditions where sweating is common. If a prescription drug can cause headaches, it’s more likely to do so if the employee works in a fast-paced environment. Consider actual conditions when evaluating the safety of any prescription or OTC drug in the workplace.

By some calculations, nearly 70 percent of Americans take at least one prescription medication. More than 50 percent take at least two. These include antibiotics, antidepressants and opioid painkillers as well as medications for chronic medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and arthritis. Don’t let the use of prescription and OTC medication endanger your workforce. Contact us today for further assistance with addressing these issues in your workplace safety program.

Reducing Eye Injuries With Protective Devices

Reducing Eye Injuries With Protective Devices

Every day, over 2,000 workers experience an eye injury that requires them to seek medical care, according to the National Safety Council. Although any worker can injure her eyes on the job, the majority of eye injuries occur in the construction, manufacturing, mining and agriculture industries. These accidents affect the quality of life of the people whose eyes are injured, and result in a significant amount of lost work time. Preventing these injuries is not difficult. Doing so requires having the right protective equipment on hand and insisting that workers follow eye protection procedures at all times.

Eye injuries are often caused by the following: flying particles from work materials, chemicals, falling objects, dust and UV light from welding torches. If your workplace exposes workers to any of these hazards, it is important that you have an eye-protection policy in place. Note that OSHA has specific standards for general industry as well as shipyard employment and construction.

Types of eye protection include safety glasses with side protection, goggles and face shields. The kind of protection you purchase for your employees depends on the type of work they do. For example, working in a dusty environment may simply require the use of safety glasses, while working with chemicals always requires that workers use goggles, while working with bloodborne pathogens will require the use of a face shield.

Sometimes, workers need to use task-specific eyewear that is appropriate to the work they will be performing, such as a welding helmet to protect the eyes from the intense UV light emitted by the arc. A person working with lasers will wear eye protection that has a special filter to protect his eyes from the light. It is critical that workers use the right type of protection for the task in order to prevent injury. This may mean that your company will need to purchase several different kinds of protective equipment for the eyes.

Note that any protective eyewear you buy must meet the ANSI eye and face protection standards. Appropriate eyewear will have Z87 marked on the frame or lens. Equipment should fit properly so that no space is between the glasses and the face that would permit flying debris to enter and cause injury. Maintain the equipment so that it performs properly, as scratched googles can be a hazard in and of themselves.

Taking these precautions should reduce the chances that any of your employees suffer from a serious eye injury. Refer to OSHA guidelines to ensure that your company meets all of the legal standards for eye protection.