Managing Allergies in the Workplace

Peninsula Team

March 23 2020

With allergies on the rise, it is not uncommon for employers to have members of their staff impacted by these reactions. Shortness of breath, excessive sneezing, and skin irritation are all common symptoms that an individual suffering from allergies can face. Furthermore, medications to treat allergies can create symptoms of their own, such as dizziness, nausea, vomiting drowsiness and more. Whether these symptoms are caused by serious allergies or allergy medications, they can impede an individual’s ability to perform their job and potentially result in them missing work.

This post discusses employer obligations towards employees suffering from severe allergies, and what employers can do to create an allergy-safe work environment.

What are employer responsibilities relating to allergies in the workplace?

If an allergy is so severe that it impedes an employee’s ability to perform their job, it likely meets the criteria for a disability. Employers have a legal duty to accommodate; this means employers must work to accommodate employees with a disability, up until the point of undue hardship.

An example of an employer accommodating a severe allergy in the workplace, could be changing the employee's work location in the office, or asking other staff to be mindful of certain foods that could trigger an allergic reaction.

 How can employers best manage allergies in the workplace?

Proper policies and protocols, addressing workplace allergies, are very important to preventing the chances of a severe allergic reaction. Workers with an allergy should have the opportunity to sit down with their manager or employer and come up with an allergy action plan–should an emergency ever occur at work. This plan should include details, such as:

  • Their emergency contact;
  • If they have an EpiPen, and where it is kept; and
  • At what point 911 should be dialed.

In addition to proper policies and procedures, the following are simple steps employers can implement in their workplaces to help prevent allergy symptoms from occurring:

  • Keep the office properly ventilated;
  • Find suitable replacements for absorbent materials (e.g., carpet) that collect dust and other allergens;
  • Hold workplace seminars on preventing allergic reactions and recognizing signs of a reaction; and
  • Provide a designated space for coats and other outdoor clothing. These articles of clothing can collect allergens and keeping them away from seated areas helps prevent allergens from spreading throughout the workplace.

Need help addressing allergies in your workplace?

Our HR experts can help. Peninsula offers business owners a 24/7 advice line, assistance with contract and policy creation and much more. For assistance in navigating challenging business scenarios, call us today: 1(833)247-3652.

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