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A vending machine to dispense medicine... is this acceptable according to the OHSA?

by , 25 March 2013
Medical testing and dispensing of medicines in the office has the potential to cause quite a stir. Another sensitive topic involves employees' medical records... do you know what your employees' rights are about disclosure?

What about the dispensing of medicine in a vending machine at the office? Is this allowed?

We've had some interesting questions from readers relating to these topics so I thought for today we'd tackle some of these issues.

Vending machines for medicine in the workplace
Are we allowed to have coin-operated dispensers with medication, e.g. Panado, Disprin, Rennies, etc. in the workplace, as we aren't allowed to keep medication in the first aid boxes?
Yes, it's acceptable as this dispenser will be exactly the same as the employee purchasing treatment over the counter at any shop or pharmacy, thus the employee makes his own choice on what mediation to use and no 'diagnosis and treatment' by the first aider takes place.
Employee medical records… can you view them?
Our company does maintenance on fire detection as well as installing this particular equipment. We're also involved in C.C.T.V. installation and maintenance.
Our tea lady has been with our company for many years. We suspect she may have contracted HIV. We (the company) paid for her to see a doctor, which she did, and the doctor examined and tested her. Do we have the right to know the whole outcome of the appointment or just the tests which the company has paid for?
She doesn't work at any of our jobs or sites. She's our office tea lady and we found out from the doctor that she has TB.
A situation like this isn't easy to handle. She's under no obligation to disclose to the company what the diagnosis was, even though the company paid the doctor's bill. The doctor also shouldn't have given you any feedback (unless your employee gave her consent, and the diagnosis was given to a medical professional working for your company). Disclosing details on a patient's medical status is unethical, immoral and irresponsible.
The basics of this situation is you took action from a moral responsibility/caring standpoint i.e. you paid for her to see a doctor in the hope that whatever the ailment is, it'll be diagnosed, she'll receive treatment, get better and continue working.
It's a legal requirement.
You must identify hazards and assess risks in your company
Do you know how to compile a risk assessment?
Doing this will allow you to protect your employees from health and safety hazards, and save yourself from a R100 000 fine, two years in jail or even both!
In-house transfer… is a medical exam necessary?
I work in the saw-milling industry. Is it necessary for an employee to have a medical checkup if we transfer him from one section to another?
Yes. The health risk profiles may be different from department to department, so it's necessary to perform a medical or determine the health status before you move an employee to a different department within the company. 
The reasons for this is:
1) To determine the health status of your employee and determine any loss of health due to exposure in the existing work area.
2) To determine if your employee has any conditions that may be aggravated due to exposures in the new area of work/department i.e. an asthmatic shouldn't work in a dusty area or area with chemical fumes.
Tips to help you understand when medical testing is justifiable
Remember, you can only subject an employee to medical testing if it's permitted or justified by legislation, medical facts, employment conditions, social policy, the fair distribution of employment benefits or the inherent requirements of the job as stated under Section 7 of the Employment Equity Act.
Legislation permits or requires it, for example, where:

  • Lead regulations of OHSA says employees working with lead must be regularly tested;
  • General Administrative Regulations of OHSA say employers shall not permit a person under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drug to enter or remain on workplace;
  • Diving regulations say divers must get a medical examination once a year.
Medical facts justify it for example:
  • In the case where a medical condition is easily transmitted in the workplace.
  • Employment conditions justify it for example;
  • A worker on a production line has TB (as opposed to a security guard).
Social policy justifies it for example:
  • Social norms would condone testing for drugs but not for general pregnancy.
Fair distribution of employee benefits justifies it for example, in order:
  • To obtain disability cover or membership of a retirement fund.
It is an inherent requirement of the job for example: 
  • A vision test for a driver.
Until next time.
Take care
Kerusha Narothan
Managing Editor: Health and Safety Training Manual

P.S. Remember you can also get your questions answered and answer other people's questions - all you have to do is register on the Health and Safety Club, its FREE

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