Diabetes Risk in the Workplace

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Diabetes is a hidden epidemic and the fastest-growing health threat facing our nation. 4.6 million people have the condition in the UK with an additional 700 people diagnosed a day (one every two minutes). Diabetes is an invisible epidemic posing often unrecognised health and safety risks to individuals and companies. Civil and criminal liability could follow if appropriate steps have not been taken to identify and eliminate the risk.

The Diabetes Safety Organisation have partnered with Being Well Together, part of the British Safety Council, to raise awareness of diabetes at work and to host a free webinar during Diabetes Awareness Week. No matter what size your organisation is, the sector or location, poor employee health and wellbeing directly results in poor organisational wellbeing. That means working days lost, decreases in productivity and effectiveness of employees, increased presenteeism and increased risk of accident or injury. It can also significantly impact on workplace culture, employee turnover and brand. Being Well Together aims to help organisations navigate through the steps needed to improve employee health, safety and wellbeing. The Diabetes at Work webinar will explain the symptoms of diabetes, what is actually happening to the body, why it poses a risk, and the legal implications if something did happen at work.

The risk to individual’s health from diabetes can be severe and include:

  • blindness – diabetes is the leading cause in the working population
  • erectile dysfunction – 75% of men suffer from this at some point
  • amputation – 170 a week in the UK
  • increases risk of a heart attack
  • increased risk of a stroke
  • premature death – 500 people die a week from the condition
  • diabetic kidney disease

The implications at work are often overlooked, some examples are:

  • increased time off work particularly for those not managing their condition or those undiagnosed
  • increased risk of accidents
  • not being compliant with the Equality Act 
  • not providing appropriate places to test or take injectable medications
  • not complying with the Health and Safety at Work etc Act

Companies would not allow an employee on site if they were under the influence of alcohol or drugs, yet the symptoms caused by diabetes can have similar physical effects. Additionally, companies would not allow an employee to operate safety critical machinery if they could not feel their feet, just one of the side effects of undiagnosed diabetes (currently anticipated to be 1 million undiagnosed people in the UK). 

Diabetes must therefore be a risk which is specifically considered. Control measures could include training, awareness and an open culture. These will help to reduce risk and increase the prospects of avoiding legal liability. More importantly, it will stop the accident from happening, which is the best defence of all. 

As an organisation, we work with the international law firm Gowling WLG on all legal aspects of our work, and they recognise the serious risk diabetes can pose to a company. “The law places a duty on all employers to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, that their employees and anyone affected by what the business does, are not exposed to a risk to their health safety or wellbeing. Diabetes is a condition which gives rise to risk and therefore needs to be carefully assessed and controlled. Failure to do so could have tragic consequences and criminal implications.” Andrew Litchfield, Partner, Gowling WLG.

Taking reasonably practicable steps around diabetes safety does not need to be expensive to your company, there are simple measures that can be put in place to keep your staff safer and healthier. Doing nothing after understanding the risks is not reasonably practicable. 

Don’t let a diabetes related episode contribute to a workplace accident leaving you open to a criminal offence and facing significant fines. Take steps to make your company ‘diabetes safe’. Why not sign up to the free webinar hosted by Being Well Together on the 16th of June? Register for free https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/5709784089467264016

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