Do Any of Your Employees Have a Life-Threatening Allergy?

INC magazine online

No idea? Never thought to ask? You can prepare for and avoid a serious health catastrophe. Here’s how.

The workplace is where you and your employees spend the better part
of your waking hours–so chances are pretty high that a health issue of
some kind could arise.  This probably brings to your mind the scene of a
heart attack, woman going into labor, or a run-of-the-mill slip or
fall.  But when a new employee recently came to speak to me about a
serious allergy she had to red bell peppers, health care took on a new
significance.  Apparently, her allergy is so severe, that someone else
eating them within the office can send her into anaphylactic shock.  As
an allergy sufferer myself, I completely understood her concern, and
decided that we needed to put an action plan into place to safeguard
against any such episode.
Here’s what I did, and recommend you do too, to plan for a health emergency:
Step 1: Inform the entire staff about any serious concerns.
I confirmed that the allergic employee wanted me to make all
employees aware of her situation, and then I did so. You would be
surprised at how many things have red peppers in them–from the home
fries my staff likes to order in for breakfast to the meals and
leftovers some bring in for lunch. When I told the staff about the
employee’s issue, I made it very simple, but very clear, because I want
everyone to understand how serious my concern is: “We have someone on
staff who has an allergy so severe, it could cause her to stop
breathing, and consequently, to die. No one here wants to have that
happen, so please avoid bringing the trigger (red pepper) into the
office at all costs. If you had something last night for dinner that
contains the offending ingredient, leave it home. If you order something
containing red pepper at lunch, dine out.”
Step 2:  Prepare for a worst-case scenario.

Ask your allergic employee to explain to you exactly what
happens when the allergy is triggered.  She should be able to tell you
not only the early signs of an allergy attack, but also what she would
like you to do in case an attack occurs.  My employee carries a device
in her purse that will stop an attack, but it must be administered in a
specific way. I made sure to learn how to use it, where she keeps it,
and to tell other employees this information too so someone is able to
act quickly in an emergency.

Step 3:  Make emergency contact information readily available.

As a small business owner, I had never thought to include an
emergency contact information sheet in my HR documents.  Now, every
employee is asked to complete a brief form that designates an emergency
contact person and phone number, and provides a place to disclose
(should the employee so choose) any allergies that may need to be
communicated to an emergency team on her behalf.
Taking these simple steps have helped my employee feel safer,
encouraged my staff to be vigilant, and assured me that an emergency
situation can be handled smoothly should one arise–not just for the
employee with the serious allergy, but for any of my employees.