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I have a headache - does anyone have a Disprin for me?

by , 23 May 2013
How often have you been asked for a Disprin or Panado?

Everyone gets a headache at some point at work. And without a second thought, you reach for the box in your drawer and hand them a pill. But as a health and safety professional, have you ever stopped to consider the possibility that you could be handing that person a death sentence?

The question is: 'Are you legally allowed to give your employees a headache tablet?'

Let's find out...

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Do your first aiders know what it is?

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Am I allowed to give my employees Disprin… Or any other form of painkillers?
Giving Disprin to an employee, or any form of medication, puts you and your company at legal risk.


Because you don't have the required knowledge or qualifications to prescribe medication to employees. You don't ask the specific medical questions to the employee before you give him the medication and you don't know if they're allergic to any of the components in the medicine. You have no way of knowing if it'll make them drowsy or impair their vision.

This could ultimately cause serious accidents if they work with heavy machinery or result in death if they have an allergic reaction to the medication. 

You're probably wondering why it's so easy to walk into a supermarket and buy painkillers like Disprin and Panado off the shelf but you can't hand them out work, right?

Well, you're not the only one!

Here's the answer…

This is without a doubt the most comprehensive emergency training programme I've ever come across

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If I can't give my employee a painkiller, why can we buy it over the counter at supermarkets?
The answer's quite simple. When you walk into a supermarket, you have a variety of options to choose from and you're not forced to take only one specific brand. When you purchase the box of painkillers, its original container includes the MSDS (material safety data sheet) that you can and should read before you take the medicine. This sheet informs you about the contra-indications, dosage, side effects and ingredients. This way you can make an informed decision on whether you should take it or not.
Supermarkets only sell schedule 1 and 2 medicine – which is known as over-the-counter medicine. Schedule 3 – 5 medicine may only be issued by a clinic sister (nurse) because they've been trained to ask certain questions such as:

a.    Are you allergic to aspirin, etc.?
b.    Do you have a family history of...?
c.    Where do you work…?
Schedule 6 and higher medicine may only be issued by a medical doctor.
Lastly, it's too big a risk to issue medicine if you're not qualified to do so. You can incur legal liability if you've issued medicine to someone and something goes wrong.

So the next time someone asks you for a Disprin, don't give it to them! It can end up costing you thousands! And make sure your first aiders know this too, and that they don't keep painkillers in their first aid boxes.
Until next time

Stay safe and healthy

Kerusha Narothan
Product Manager: Health and Safety Division
P.S. Get your Emergency First Aid Training programme here!

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