Workplace safety is more than just recognizing hazards at your workplace. You also need to be aware of the health and wellness of employees and co-workers as this can impact your worksite’s safety.

For instance, employees who suffer from chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and more can suffer physical symptoms that can lead to injuries in the workplace. In an office environment, should someone become disoriented or sleepy due to being diabetic, the risk of injury to themselves or others isn’t going to be great. If this happens while operating heavy machinery, the risk is much greater.

Diabetes in the Workplace

According to the CDC, since 2007, the number of U.S. adults affected by diabetes has risen by 3 million making diabetes in the workplace a more worrisome health condition.

According to a National Diabetes Statistics Report, more than 100 million Americans have diabetes or prediabetes. Nearly 1 in 4 adults living with diabetes – 7.2 million Americans – didn’t know they had the condition.

Diabetes results in 15 million missed work days and 120 million work days with reduced performance each year, which impacts not just worker performance, but a business’ bottom line.

Managing Diabetic Medical Emergencies

It is important that everyone have accurate information about diabetes in the workplace and how it is managed. But it is also important to understand that this can result in medical emergencies or medical events.

One of these medical events is called hypoglycemia, when the blood sugar levels get too low. This can happen when insulin removes too much glucose from the blood as a result of increased physical activity, too much medication or too little food.

Symptoms you should be aware of include:

  • Shakiness, nervousness or anxiety
  • Sweating, chills and clamminess
  • Irritability or impatience
  • Confusion or delirium
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Sleepiness
  • Blurred vision

In a medical event such as this, The American Diabetes Association recommends giving the person 15 grams of simple carbohydrates.

Oftentimes, a diabetic will carry glucose tablets or some other form of simple carbohydrates for instances such as this. For those that do not, employers may want to include a simple treatment such as glucose tablets or liquid glucose in the emergency medical kit. Having this available may enable your worker to recover quicker from a diabetic episode and avoid a trip to the emergency room.

Hyperglycemia, when a person’s blood sugar level gets too high, can also be a serious problem when left untreated. A condition called ketoacidosis could occur because the body doesn’t have enough insulin. Symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Breath that smells fruity
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Very dry mouth

It is important to recognize the difference between hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia, especially since many do not know they have diabetes. However, it should only be the role of a trained first responder to administer glucose tablets or liquid glucose and help monitor the glucose levels of a person with diabetes. All employees should know who those people are in their workplace and how to contact them in a timely manner.

While diabetes is one of the top ten most expensive health conditions for U.S. employers, there are things you can do to help employees with diabetes manage their disease in the workplace so they are healthier and more productive in the workday.

The following articles are resources you can use to help educate employees about this chronic condition.

American Diabetes Association
Diabetes in the Workplace
How to Manage Diabetes at Work
Diabetes and How it Can Affect a Person at Work

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