Anaphylaxis in the Workplace
Anaphylaxis Australia has been receiving an increase in requests from employers for guidance on management for those at risk of anaphylaxis in the workplace. We felt it timely to publish what we feel is achievable in the workplace bearing in mind privacy laws and that we are talking about adults who need to manage and take responsibility for their own health conditions.
The employee should be encouraged to disclose they are at risk of severe allergic reactions at the commencement of employment.
The employer should consider implementing some strategies to reduce the risk of severe allergic reactions in the work-place..
Any worker prescribed an EpiPen® should have an Anaphylaxis Action Plan with their EpiPen®. Any worker who carries an EpiPen® (adrenaline auto-injector) should inform the employer, supervisor or person in charge of its location.
Colleagues should be trained to recognise severe allergic reactions and administer adrenaline via an auto injector if the individual is unable to self administer the medication.
Because of the potential severity of the allergic reaction, NO worker should be expected to be completely responsible for the administration of their EpiPen®. Assistance should be provided.
We provide training in anaphylaxis management during our first aid courses. A work colleague does not need to have a first aid certificate in order to administer an EpiPen® according to the allergic individual’s Anaphylaxis Action Plan.
Any worker who has severe allergies should be encouraged to wear a Medic-Alert bracelet or necklace, or other suitable identification.
Anaphylaxis Action Plans can be purchased from Anaphylaxis Australia
www.allergyfacts.org.au or downloaded from www.allergy.org.au
Scenarios that might arise in the workplace
When a workplace celebration or training is planned where food is provided, the employee with food allergies should be consulted and the menu could be adapted accordingly. Example for those with nut allergy: Bowls of nuts provided at an office celebration are not recommended as cross contamination is high.
People put their hand in the nut bowl and then go directly to the chip bowl, contaminating chips which may have been fine for the nut allergic individual. It is not as simple as expecting the nut allergic individual to avoid the nut bowl. Some venues/activities pose a greater risk e.g. a buffet meal on a harbour cruise would be considered high risk as the risk of cross contamination in buffet style meals is high and access to prompt medical back up a real issue.
For the shellfish allergic person, choosing a seafood restaurant would exclude them from this outing as vapours from shellfish cooking can cause a severe reaction in very sensitive individuals. Choose an Italian restaurant which may still have shellfish dishes but over all poses less risk to the shellfish allergic individual. The individual would be encouraged to disclose their allergy and obtain information on the level of risk prior to eating the Italian food but there is less overall risk.
Asian style restaurants are generally not recommended for those with peanut and tree nut allergy due to the high risk of cross contamination during food preparation.
The latex allergic individual needs to reduce contact with latex in the workplace. For some, this may mean not touching elastic bands or latex erasers but for others, strict strategies need to be implemented in order to reduce the amount of exposure to the latex allergen.
Latex allergy can worsen with ongoing exposure. An employer must do what they can to accommodate the person with latex allergy. Non latex gloves must be made available if their work duties require use of gloves. The allergic individual should also carry their own latex free gloves in their medical kit with their EpiPen® and Anaphylaxis Action Plan in case they are required.
Be considerate of those with severe food allergy when eating in the workplace i.e. wash your hands after eating.
Place some information about severe allergies in work memos, circulars, newsletters and industry publications. Use notice boards to place information about severe allergies. Make a note of Anaphylaxis Awareness Week held early May of each year, more information can be found on our website.