If you are concerned with workplace health and safety, allergies might not be on your list of priorities. That said, allergies can actually be a huge issue for many people, and they can have a massive impact on job performance, workplace accidents and long term illness. Read ahead for valuable information about how allergies can affect your employees.
If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you know that they can be completely debilitating at times, causing painfully itchy eyes, uncontrollable sneezing and a pounding headache. Calling in sick for the entire spring season is probably not feasible, so chances are that your employees are heading to work under the influence of allergy medications.
These over the counter medications often contain pseudoephedrine, stimulants and/ or depressants, and are likely to cause drowsiness. If your team members are required to operate machinery or vehicles, this can spell disaster. Encourage employees to disclose information about medications they are taking and adjust your task rota as necessary.
Peanuts. Beestings. Strawberries. Eggs. You might be able to face these potential allergens with no worries, but for someone with a severe allergy, they can be deadly. Even the slightest trace of peanut dust or bee pollen can cause an allergic person’s body to go into anaphylaxis, a reaction that can include seizures, swelling of the throat and even heart attack.
If one or more of your employees suffers from a severe allergy, encourage them to share their strategies and emergency procedures with you. Have them keep an extra epi-pen at the office, and have them show you how to administer it if necessary.
Post signs around the office asking other staff to leave the offending allergen at home, and educate them about the severity of this issue. Creating a plan together can be the difference between life and death – don’t skip this step.
If you are engaged in a trade or industry in which your staff comes into contact with foreign materials on a regular basis, you should be prepared for potential allergens to infiltrate your workspace. Your staff should wear masks and protective gear whenever working with hazardous materials, and they should never be encouraged to handle potentially dangerous materials (unless this is your field).
Hire an expert to remove any toxic substances – if there is ever any doubt about the allergen content or contamination in your environment, evacuate your team and investigate.
Renovations can often be a source of unexpected allergens, as trapped dust is released from the walls, ceilings and floorboards. Again, you may need to have your team work off-site during this time.
While allergies may not seem like a major issue in workplace safety, they can actually result in accidents, severe illness and even death. Treat allergies with the seriousness that they deserve and create a plan with any affected employees.