Allergies in the Workplace – a risk for PCBU’s to manage!
It seems to me that most people are now allergic to something or other, and that the proportion of sufferers is certainly increasing. Even I recently discovered that after a lifetime of no known allergic reactions, my skin now reacts to a certain brand of adhesive bandage!
So with this ‘reasonable foreseeability’ clearly before us, it is apparent that workplaces need to be aware and prepared for the potential allergic reactions of their employees.
Allergic reaction is often regarded as a trivial condition, but I have witnessed for myself an allergy flare-up that has seriously disrupted ordinary daily functioning, affecting sleep, mood, energy levels and concentration.
Management should think about First Aiders undertaking additional first aid training to respond to anaphylaxis if this topic has not been covered in previous first aid training.
Seeking and recording information when a worker commences work about any first aid needs that may require specific treatment in a medical emergency such as severe allergies may need adding to your safety induction program.
We therefore need to be careful if our workplaces may include exposure to animals, pets, cleaning products, fragrances, mould, latex, dusts, vapours, seasonal pollens and the production or consumption of food for example.
But while workplaces need to be aware and prepared for the potential allergic reactions of their workers, workers with these allergies need to take responsibility for their medical condition and exercise the necessary caution. The workplace and the worker should therefore consult to work in partnership to create a plan to ensure the safety of anyone who is at risk.
And of course any food product manufacturer should already know that most food allergies are caused by peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, sesame seeds, fish and shellfish, soy and wheat, and these must be declared on the food label. However be very careful in such declarations, ensuring that they can be validated through robust and diligent processes, otherwise you could easily find yourself in unintended trouble!
Severe allergen suffering can be recognised as a disability in Australia, so workers affected should be treated with an acceptable level of care and consideration.
So while the boss or a co-workers maybe one source of irritation, so might be other environmental factors in your workplace where allergen risks are high and workers susceptible!