Health and Safety


Illnesses, Remedies and Impairment

Tinus Boshoff


Well, the annual epidemics of colds, flu and sinus problems are with us again. Not to mention the old faithful tummy bug. When these ailments strike, it is without warning – and we are certainly not in a fit condition to work or drive a vehicle.


We feel groggy, suffer from nausea, have a headache, as well as the sniffles and sneezes. Off we go to the local pharmacy, hoping that he will supply some sort of "genie in a bottle" miracle cure.  It is not only street drugs that can affect our judgement – many medications contain high levels of alcohol, which makes us sleepy and not in the brightest of brain-power functions.


Many medicinal remedies today, including prescription drugs,  carry warnings not to drive or operate machinery whilst taking the medication. The Occupational Health and Safety Act also forbids the operating of machinery whilst taking certain drugs or medications.


The Occupational Health and Safety Act (Act 85 of 1993) define machinery as follows:


 "machinery" means any article or combination of articles assembled, arranged or connected and which is used or intended to be used for converting any form of energy to performing work, or which is used or intended to be used, whether incidental thereto or not, for developing, receiving, storing, containing, confining, transforming, transmitting, transferring or controlling any form of energy.


This description encompasses a very wide range of equipment. Section 2A of the General Safety Regulations deals with prescriptions regarding ''Intoxication'' andstates that employer or a user, as the case may be, shall not permit any person who is, or who appears to be, under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs, to enter or remain at a workplace.


It also states that no person at a workplace shall be under the influence of, or have in his or her possession, or partake of or offer any other person intoxicating liquor or drugs. (But what about the occasional office party then? Surely something to consider in the future)


Section 2A also states that an employer or a user, as the case may be, shall, in the case where a person is taking medicines, only allow such person to perform duties at the workplace if the side effects of such medicine do not constitute a threat to the health or safety of the person concerned or other persons at such workplace.


In other words it is the duty of the employee to report the use of prescribed medicine to the employer. The employer, or in most cases the supervisor, should then decide if it safe for the employee to perform his or her normal duty while under the influence of such medicine.


Apart from legislation, the befuddled state of mind which usually accompanies a cold or other illness can be the root cause of unwanted incidents and are a major cause of time lost from work.

What can we do ?

  • Try to avoid people with colds. Colds are spread from one person to the other through droplets in the air and on their hands.
  • Wash your hands frequently, especially when you have had contact with someone with a cold.
People with colds should cover their sneezes and coughs, dispose of tissues immediately, away from others, and wash their hands frequently since they will inevitably be touching common surfaces such as doorknobs.
  • Get enough rest and sleep.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Eat a nutritious, well-balanced diet, and be sure to include sources of Vitamin C such as citrus fruits.


If all of these measures fail and you catch the latest cold or flu anyway, remember that there is no cure except for the passage of time. All of those cold remedies on the market only deal with the symptoms. Some of them can cause varying degrees of impairment, so remember to observe warnings about driving and operating equipment if you choose to take them.


For more information contact [email protected]




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