Be medicinewise: sometimes medicines and machinery don't mix

9 June 2011

NPS MedicineWise has teamed up with the Australian Men’s Sheds Association (AMSA) to launch new information and resources to help its members be medicinewise while working with machinery in Men’s Sheds across Australia. The resources, which include posters and information, will be launched in Men’s Sheds nationwide during Men’s Health Week from June 13-19.

NPS clinical adviser Dr Danielle Stowasser says while most medicines will have little impact on our ability to perform complex tasks, some have effects which make certain activities dangerous or increase the risk of accidents occurring.

“Working with power tools requires a high level of concentration and coordination but some medicines have effects which limit our ability to perform these complex tasks. Operating machinery while experiencing effects such as dizziness or drowsiness is downright dangerous, so it’s important to avoid situations where medicines and machinery don’t mix.”

Dr Stowasser says people are often aware of the effects on alertness caused by their prescription medicines, but sometimes pay less attention to the non-prescription medicines they are taking.

“Common over-the-counter medicines, such as pain relievers, antihistamines and cold and flu tablets, may also cause problems with concentration and coordination. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so be medicinewise and avoid participating in activities if the effects you’re experiencing may jeopardise the safety of yourself or others.”

The length of time and the degree to which medicines can impair our abilities varies. Some medicines, such as those used to treat sleep disorders, can affect our coordination or ability to concentrate hours after we have taken them. With others, the severity or duration of effects may be increased when taken in combination with other medicines. If you are unsure, check with your doctor or pharmacist or call the NPS Medicine Line on 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424).

There are a few simple steps you can take to check and see whether it is safe for you to drive or operate machinery while taking a medicine.

Firstly, read any warning stickers affixed to your medicine and follow their instructions carefully. If they indicate your mental alertness or coordination may be affected by the medicine, or explicitly state you should not drive or operate heavy machinery, then avoid these tasks until you are no longer taking it.

The consumer medicine information (CMI) leaflet will also contain important information on how to use your medicine safely and effectively. Look for sections outlining ‘Things you must not do’ and ‘Things to be careful of’ when taking the medicine and avoid participating in these activities as directed.

AMSA’s Gary Green says there are many other activities available to members if they are unable to use the machinery in their Men’s Sheds due to safety concerns.

“Men’s Sheds have all sorts of activities happening in them.  Design, practical problem solving, cooking,‘gopher’ jobs or just hanging around and being part of it, there is something for everybody. I encourage Men’s Shedders to be aware of any of their medicines that might affect their ability to operate machinery safely - but don’t stay away from the Men’s Shed because of it as there are many alternative roles and jobs.”

During Men’s Health Week, AMSA is also running a series of Health Checks entitled “Spanner in the Works?” offering free health checks and health information to all men in the local community. For further details, contact Gary Green on 0428 133 546 or gary@mensshed.net

For further information on being medicinewise, visit www.nps.org.au/bemedicinewise

ENDS

Independent, evidence-based and not-for-profit, NPS enables better decisions about medicines and medical tests.We are funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing.