Nut allergies – how to manage allergens in your workplace
With the Great British Bake Off inspiring another batch of amateur bakers, it’s likely that some of your staff are bringing in their own delicious bakes to share with colleagues.
It’s nice to tuck into scrummy homemade cake at your desk or in your office kitchen, but before you do, you might want to check first that nobody on your team is allergic to any of the ingredients.
Food allergies are becoming increasingly prevalent, with around two million people in Britain now living with a diagnosed food allergy. And, tragically, as several recent media reports have shown, some can be fatal.
So, how do you go about managing allergens in your workplace?
We were asked that exact question recently by a company looking to take on a new employee who suffers from a serious nut allergy.
The prospective candidate had mentioned his condition to his new employer at interview, and our client wanted to ensure measures were in place to minimise the risk to his health before he started his job.
HR consultant Julie, who advised the client, said: “The new employee works in an office which he shares with around 20 other people. So, his employer introduced a ban on eating specific nuts in the office. The company also created a separate, allergen-free kitchen area away from the main staff kitchen."
Additionally, HR:4UK also advised the company on what to do if the employee had an allergic reaction at work.
Julie added: “The employee carries an EpiPen, used to treat anaphylactic shock which can be brought on by an allergic reaction. We advised the firm to hold at least two of these devices on the premises so there is always a spare one as back-up if the first EpiPen fails to work."
We also explained the importance of training at least three people in the office in how to use an EpiPen. It’s not enough to leave this to your office first aider, as what if that person is away on the day the EpiPen is needed?
“Other colleagues also need to be trained in administering it – and they also need to know what symptoms to look out for if they suspect someone is having an allergic reaction.”
There are several other factors to consider when managing allergens at work, especially if an employee with an allergy works off-site.
Julie added: “This client’s employee is based in the office, but what if a member of your staff with an allergy has to go off-site to visit clients or suppliers? Will that person be working with other people on other sites or just with immediate co-workers?
If the person has worked somewhere else before joining your business, ask how the food allergy risk was managed at his or her previous company.”
For their own protection, employees need to make employers fully aware of their allergies at the earliest opportunity so safeguards can be put in place. And for employers, it’s worth providing staff training to the whole team so everyone has a better understanding of allergies and their impact on people’s daily lives.
Do you have any questions about managing allergies in your workplace, if so contact us today on 01455 444222.