For decades, over the counter (OTC) medicines have been used by employees to provide comfort and relieve symptoms which allow the worker to stay on the job. Common ailments like upset stomaches, the common cold and aches & pains can cause employees to go home, creating a loss of productivity. To combat this problem and increase productivity, some employers make available OTC medicines, keeping employees on the job. Let’s take a look at 4 common questions people ask OTC medicines in the workplace.
What are over the counter medicines?
Over the counter medicines provide relief from common symptoms including headaches, stomach aches and the common cold. The Food & Drug Administration tests, regulates and approves the use of these medicines to the general public as indicated on the packaging. Directions, warnings and ingredients are disclosed by the use of federally approved manufacturing and packaging facilities.
Are OTC medicines allowed to be offered in the workplace?
OSHA states in their publication “Fundaments of a workplace first-aid-program” on page 9 that the employer should use the ANSI 308.1-2015 recommended minimum requirements list as their recommendation for first aid supplies. Details about the ANSI recommended list of first aid supplies can be seen here in our learning center. The ANSI standard includes medicines in their list of supplemental first aid supplies for consideration. Medicines for pain, swelling, and allergic reactions are included in their list. Nowhere in either the OSHA or ANSI standard are OTC medicines not allowed to be used. Employers should decide whether or not to make available OTC medicines in the workplace.
How are workplace medicines different than those you buy in the store?
Most workplace medicines are designed with the workplace in mind. A good example would be medicines manufactured by Medique Products. With many years of experience, their OTC medicines are manufactured for the workplace setting. Here are 3 examples of how workplace medicines are different:
- Packaging - Workplace OTC medicines are packaged in “Unit Does/Single Use” packages in a special box. These safety packs are designed for single use. No bottles or shared medicines should be used and the safety packs help accomplish this important feature.
- Labeling - The safety packs are clearly marked with the name, ingredients, instructions and warnings. Each label tells the expiration date, lot/batch code, name and address of the manufacturer/packer, net quantity of contents and warning directions. The box is also labeled with the ingredients, instructions and warnings. Medique Products actually includes Spanish instructions and warnings on some boxes.
- Ingredients - Workplace over the counter medicines are designed to be safe to use in the workplace. They do not contain antihistamines which can cause drowsiness.
Why should employers offer medicines to workers?
There are several good reasons why employers should offer over the counter medicines.
- Worker Productivity - Worker productivity is the biggest benefit to the employer. Workers work more efficiently when they feel well.
- Comfort & Convenience - Providing relief to the employee for common ailments including cold symptoms, headaches, allergies and upset stomaches enhances the workplace environment.
- Avoid lost time from work - Both the worker and employee experience the convenience of staying on the job and remaining productive rather than having to go home and have lost time from work. Compare the cost of a package of aspirin to 3 hours of lost time.
- Employee Benefits - Finally, making available OTC medicines to workers is a direct benefit of employment. Workers see that management cares about their welfare and the benefit being provided by the employer.