Caffeine Vicious Circle

Shift workers warned against caffeine vicious circle

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland is urging shift workers to avoid the vicious circle of relying on coffee or energy drinks to keep them awake at work, and taking sedatives to help them sleep when they get home.

Paradoxically, working at night can make it difficult for workers to make healthy choices that help them cope with shift work, and it can be “very tempting to rely on an artificial ‘fix'”, the regulator says.

“Shift workers often turn to stimulants such as coffee, energy drinks or cigarettes to help them stay awake and sedatives such as alcohol, sleeping pills and other non-prescription substances to help them sleep,” it says.

“Ongoing use or overuse of some stimulants and sedatives can create dependence, which can lead to a need to use higher doses for the same effect, as well as difficulties with withdrawal.”

According to Workplace Health and Safety, caffeine overdose can result in serious injury or death, and common adverse health effects of excessive energy drink consumption include insomnia, nervousness, headaches, nausea and heart palpitations.

It also says workers should avoid drinking alcohol to help them sleep.

“Although alcohol promotes sleepiness, it is also associated with earlier awakenings, disrupted sleep and poorer sleep quality.”

Getting regular exercise and eating a well-balanced diet are the best ways to adapt to shift work, the regulator says.

Workers should spend 30 minutes a day on a physical activity, eat foods that are easy to digest (like rice, bread, vegetables, fruit and dairy products), avoid sugary foods (which “provide a short-term energy boost followed by a dip in energy levels”), cut down on or give up smoking, reduce alcohol intake, and seek advice from their doctor if they need regular medication, it says.

Should the WHS Act be extended to Seacare?

Stakeholders have just three weeks left to comment on whether the WHS Act should be extended to the Seacare scheme, and whether wholesale changes should be made to the scheme’s workers’ compensation system.

In a new consultation paper, the Australian Government proposes overhauling the scheme as recommended by a 2012-13 Robin Stewart-Crompton review.

The 67-page paper also acknowledges the Government’s December 2014 plan to effectively abolish the Seafarers Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Authority by transferring its regulatory functions to the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission, suggesting the transfer and overhaul could occur simultaneously.

According to the consultation paper, the proposed reforms involve repealing the Occupational Health and Safety (Maritime Industry) Act 1993 and amending the Commonwealth’s mirror WHS Act “to extend its application to the Seacare scheme (other than facilities located in offshore areas) to the exclusion of state or territory WHS laws”.

The reforms also include “restoring consistency” between the Seafarers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1992 and theSafety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988, and incorporating provisions of the Government’s controversial Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment (Improving the Comcare Scheme) Bill 2015, currently before the Senate.

Submissions are due by 5 February.