Diabetes – the hidden epidemic

As the current Coronavirus pandemic sweeps across the world, countries are doing all they can to ensure people’s health and safety. People living with diabetes are at increased risk if they get the virus and are asked to take extra care.

We know that diabetes is a condition that impacts over 4.6 million people in the UK which leaves a lot of people vulnerable not only to this virus but other winter flus. This impacts not only the individual but also companies from increased time off work, decreased productivity but also increased safety risk in the workplace as sugar levels can harder to control.

A staggering third of people in the UK are either living with diabetes, have pre-diabetes, or are at increased risk of diabetes. This is a mirror image in workforces across the country, which over time will have a significant financial consequence. What are you doing in your workplace to promote your staff’s health, increase awareness and help diabetes safety?

700 people a day are diagnosed with diabetes (one every two minutes), it is the leading cause of blindness in the working population and 75% of men who have diabetes, suffer from erectile dysfunction at some point. 

Diabetes is progressive, slowly impacting people’s health. As it cannot be seen in the early stages and the symptoms can be put down to late nights and other lifestyle factors, helping people and companies understand and manage the risk is crucial to today’s aging, busy workforce. 

Diabetes can cause people to black out or act as if drunk when they are not correctly managing their condition. Those on high medications are required by the DVLA to test two hours before driving and every two hours whilst driving. For those who know they have the condition DVLA regulations can be met but there are 1 million people undiagnosed in the UK who may have less sensation in their feet or deteriorating vision. 

If people do not follow DVLA regulations criminal sanctions are in place. A driver who admitted to causing the death of woman in North Lanarkshire after suffering a diabetic fit was jailed for six years and eight months. A delivery driver who hid that he had diabetes and could black out at any time while behind the wheel from the DVLA and his employer was jailed for more than three and a half years for causing the death of a 53-year-old man. 

As yet there have been no criminal cases against employees but we believe this is just a matter of time as employers have a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that their employees and those affected by what the employer does are not exposed to risk to their health and safety (Health and Safety at Work Act 1974). If someone had a diabetic episode on site/while driving for work that resulted in a serious or fatal accident and an employer had taken no steps to assess and reduce risk, then the employer would commit a criminal offence and face a significant fine. 

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 safe and healthier. Doing nothing after reading this article is not reasonably practicable. 

With diabetes having a national prevalence of 7%, do you know the 7% of people in your company with the condition? Have you delivered diabetes awareness training to your staff, have those with the condition and roles that are required, been risk assessed and do you have policies and diabetes first aid kits across your business? If not, are you doing enough? 

As diabetes continues to rise and risk increases, we are working with the international law firm, Gowling WLG, to increase awareness and safety. We believe it’s imperative that employers start to understand the risk that their employees and they themselves face and work together to eliminate it. 

By using online training courses, that educate people about the condition and its symptoms so that they manage it better, will hopefully keep your staff in work and stop the accident, allowing your company to discharge its duty.

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’ and keep your staff in work and productive. Why not sign up to the diabetes charter and commit to increase awareness to your staff. To find out more about the diabetes charter please go to https://diabetessafety.org/charter/

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