• Tuesday, April 26, 2011

    Health and safety in the dental practice

    Health and safety in the dental practice
    When drugs are referred, it is the use of controlled substances and the misuse
    of over-the-counter or prescription drugs which is meant. Controlled substances include class A,B and C drugs such as cannabis, cocaine, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), etc. The term ‘drugs’ is also used to include the abuse of other substances such as solvent abuse. The use of such drugs is illegal and it may seem surprising, includes alcohol and smoking when alcohol and tobacco are not in themselves illegal substances. However, all have the potential for addiction and all can have a substantial effect on the workplace. In the context of work, the misuse of drugs and alcohol in particular, can not only damage the health of the user, but also have an impact on the workplace in respect of absenteeism and reduced efficiency. Smoking, while certainly not an illegal activity in itself, is illegal in the workplace.

    While there are no firm statistics on the effects of drug misuse in the workplace, there is evidence
    to show that the misuse of alcohol is associated with increased costs to the business
    and an increased risk of injury to the individual concerned and his/her colleagues and patients.

    20–25% of patients in acute hospital beds have alcohol as a contributory factor in their
    . 20% of fatal accidents at work involve people with blood alcohol levels over the legal drink
    drive limit.
    . Between 8 and 14 million working days are lost every year because of alcohol-related absenteeism.
    . Costs to industry are estimated at over £2 billion per year in United Kingdom
    . Smoking costs the National Health Service (NHS) in United Kingdom around £1.5 billion per year.

    The effects of alcohol
    The misuse of alcohol and drugs can have a significant effect on the behaviour of an individual as well as on his/her health and well-being. However, smoking will also affect the health and well-being of a person, particularly if he/she has been smoking for some time. All three can also have an impact on colleagues and on patients. All three types of substances could be said to be taken for their narcotic or stimulant effect and can lead to addiction if misused.

    Alcohol abuse
    Many people regard alcohol as a positive and pleasurable part of their lives. It is only when
    alcohol is abused that it will impact on an individual’s behaviour and on his/her ability to work
    safely. While there are no known figures on the number of workplace accidents where alcohol
    consumption is a factor, alcohol is known to affect both judgement and physical coordination.
    How costly alcohol abuse can be in the workplace and the effects on the individual are
    not only quantifiable in terms of money. It may be difficult for employers to be sure
    when they spot the signs of alcohol abuse and when observed it can also be a daunting
    prospect to deal with the situation. Some of the indications might be. decreased productivity;
    . higher rates of absenteeism;
    . being late for work regularly;
    . increased aggression;
    . bad decision-making.

    Some physical signs might be
    . slurred speech, increased clumsiness or unsteadiness;
    . blackouts;
    . weight loss (those dependent often drink rather then eat);
    . redness in face;
    . complaining of tingling in hands and feet.

    Observable ‘mental’ signs might be
    . increased irrationality, agitation or anger;
    . excessive weeping or emotional display;
    . unexplained absences during the day.

    Of course, the above signs and symptoms could be an indication of a number of illnesses; so care
    is needed when confronting someone.


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