Contractors here and around the world are taking a second look at the ubiquitous “energy drinks” that their younger workers constantly chug down. The older generations still have a preference for a cup of coffee as a pick me-up. Recent studies show coffee has health benefits, both physical and mental.
The same can’t be said for energy drinks, despite the manufacturers’ claims. Countries such as Germany reported they found low levels of cocaine in one of the products; France, Denmark, and Norway tried to ban the drinks when they discovered taurine in the ingredients but were thwarted by the European Union’s bureaucratic regulations.
These frequently-sued companies have been dealing with plaintiff claims that they caused the deaths of more than a dozen young people. Every lawsuit so far has been “settled” out of court, which means the aggrieved families put a bunch of cash in their pockets and promised to keep their mouths shut about the price of “settlement.”
There is even a website dedicated to challenging these manufacturers: https://www.energydrinkslawsuit.com/
The companies that make these highly caffeinated and nutritionally deficient beverages say that these products are safe with production runs in the billions of cans per year and no serious health effects.
Numerous health experts across the world say different. Energy drinks, they say, can cause insomnia, nervousness, headaches, nausea, anxiety, heart attack or stroke. These health issues can put workers at an increased risk of being involved in an accident. Also, workers sometimes combine these beverages with poor diet, alcohol abuse, tobacco, and obesity, drastically increasing the negative effect on their health.
When consuming these drinks in hot weather health risks are amplified. To avoid heat stress, workers must stay hydrated. Energy drinks contain diuretics, which increase urination and promote dehydration, greatly increasing the risk of other heat-related illnesses. Also, consuming energy drinks with alcohol intensifies dehydration, which leads to its ill effects.
California contractors could ban the consumption of energy drinks under the Heat Illness Prevention rules from Cal/OSHA due to the dehydration effect of the liquids.
More Bad News
Energy drinks can also cause liver deterioration. Recently, a construction worker in Florida received a severe liver problems diagnosis after drinking four or five energy drinks per day for a few weeks. He developed a yellowish skin color. His blood tests indicated that he had elevated liver enzymes and liver damage. Further testing revealed that the worker had developed acute hepatitis.
“The doctors believe that high levels of vitamin B3, or niacin, in the energy drink the man consumed are what caused hepatitis,” reported a health reporter for CBS. “Each bottle he drank contained 40 milligrams of niacin—double the recommended daily value. He was likely guzzling anywhere from 160 to 200 milligrams of niacin a day for at least three weeks, putting him at high risk for harmful accumulation and toxicity.”
Unfortunately, this diagnosis is not the only one of its kind. In April, a 16-year old in South Carolina died from a “caffeine-induced cardiac event causing a probable arrhythmia,” according to the Washington Post.
The American Heart Association asserts that drinking as few as one to three energy drinks can disrupt heart rhythm, cause heart palpitations and raise blood pressure. Over time, these symptoms can result in cardiac arrest or even death. Prolonged or excessive use of these drinks can also cause a heart attack or stroke.
Energy drink makers claim their products are safe. However, consumption has been linked to neurological problems and seizures in children and kidney failure in adults. Additionally, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer health advocacy group, reports that there may be as many as 34 deaths associated with energy drink consumption.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)does not have specific regulations or guidelines about energy drinks on the job; any work-related incident can be cited under the general duty clause—“it is the employer’s obligation to protect workers from all known hazards.”
What can be done to protect workers from the dangers associated with energy drinks? Employers can consider revising their injury and illness prevention programs to address them. They can remove energy drinks from on-site vending machines or prohibit their consumption altogether.
At the very least, employers should provide training and awareness programs to ensure all employees are familiar with the effects and dangers associated with energy drinks. Additionally, workers with existing health conditions, weight problems or poor diet should use extreme caution when consuming energy drinks. Individuals with liver and kidney disease, heart conditions or hypertension should avoid them completely.