Energy drinks are being banned from some construction sites due to rising health concerns around their super-caffeinated content, lack of nutritional value and detrimental health effects.
With several concreters reported by News Limited as collapsing because of dehydration after drinking energy drinks, some subcontractors said they had banned the drinks among their workers.
Energy drinks can cause insomnia, nervousness, headaches and nausea, or potentially much worse according to the Australian Medical Association (AMA). The US Food and Drug Administration is investigating a series of deaths and illnesses linked to energy drinks.
For the heat-stressed worker who requires lost fluid replacement, their consumption may also lead to dehydration, unless adequate water is also consumed.
Research conducted in 2015
2015 research by a team at Griffith University, led by Dr Rebecca Loudoun, looked at the dietary intake of 186 construction workers and found that around 40 per cent consumed energy drinks, which Dr Loudoun said is often combined with poor diet, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking and obesity.
With serious safety implications and productivity issues associated with a poor diet, Dr Loudoun said that site or line managers must drive change. She added that on-site vending machine agreements and promotional site visits boosted the availability of energy drinks in the construction industry, which are being consumed at an “alarming rate”.
Dr Loudon stated that energy drinks are marketed specifically at blue collar men – often young, cashed up and chasing sustained energy throughout long days to meet tight deadlines – by promising increased performance.
However she said that “for many, particularly young workers, this was their meal,” and added that the drinks contain “high calories, low nutritional value and no essential vitamins and minerals”.
The research concludes it is essential that site and line managers drive change and lead by example because of their strong influence on worker diet.
Line managers “setting the pace of work; the setup of the site like the position and amount of eating areas, their proximity to noise and dust; and leadership behaviours… like bringing in their own lunch, chosen methods of rehydration, what they organise or allow to be served at the weekly onsite BBQs, all had an influence on workers’ choices,” Dr Loudoun said.
While the study’s participants saw the link between nutrition and safety on site, most workers thought there were more important and immediate safety concerns.
However with energy drink sales growing by more than 8 per cent a year and accounting for more than 35 per cent of beverage sales in convenience stores, this is an issue that appears to be growing, according to the AMA,
“Energy drinks are essentially a cocktail of addictive caffeine with sugar,” AMA president, Dr Steve Hambleton said.
“Regulations need to be tightened as these products are not intended for children or for pregnant women. Even the manufacturers would agree with that.”
Dr Hambleton added that Australian Food Standards Regulations allow for a maximum of 320mg of caffeine per litre of energy drink, more than twice the 145mg allowed in soft drinks.
“If they are being sold like soft drinks, then regulate them like soft drinks and bring the caffeine content down,” he said.
Read an article and listen to a radio report from the ABC Australia on energy drinks and legislation.
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