Ask the ExpertShould employers keep over the counter medications available for employees?
hri_Admin Staff asked 4 years ago

What, if any, are the liabilities to an employer who dispenses over the counter medications such as Tylenol?

1 Answers
Glenn Demby Staff answered 4 years ago

First of all, OTC meds are NOT listed among the first aid and medical equipment and supplies that you must provide to your employees under OHS laws. But some employers choose to do so voluntarily.
The Q of whether that’s a good idea is a somewhat controversial one and I’ve seen strong arguments on both sides. For example, Alberta OHS guidelines say DON’T do it http://work.alberta.ca/documents/OHS-bulletin-fa014.pdf  ; Mayo Clinic says YES, do do it https://www.mayoclinic.org/first-aid/first-aid-kits/basics/art-20056673
And getting to your Q, these are the liability risk you face if you do make OTC drugs available to your employees:

  • The employee may have an allergic reaction
  • There may be side effects, e.g., drowsiness
  • The meds may be addictive
  • The employee may actually be an addict
  • The employee may feel like he/she HAS to take the stuff

My advice:

  1. If you do provide OTC meds, require that employees self-medicate–DON’T administer the drugs yourself
  2. Stick to small quantities, not bulk supplies
  3. Individual packets
  4. Ask your OHS/WCB regional office or liability insurer what they think

Hope that helps. Glenn