Managing diabetes at work: People with diabetes learn to live with the chronic condition all day, every day, including at work. Although they may face unique challenges in the workplace, they can overcome them through effective diabetes management and with the help of an informed employer.
Read on to learn more about diabetes at work.
Diabetes In The Workplace
What is diabetes? Diabetes is a chronic health condition in which the body’s ability to produce or respond to the hormone insulin is impaired, resulting in elevated blood glucose levels (sugar).
The condition affects many Australians and can also impact the workplace. People with diabetes may experience symptoms such as sugar levels and difficulty concentrating, which can affect their ability to perform their tasks and duties at work.
Two main types of diabetes can affect the workplace:
- Type 1 diabetes
A type of diabetes in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. This results in the body not producing enough insulin to regulate blood sugar levels.
People with type 1 diabetes may be required to take insulin injections multiple times a day and monitor their blood sugar levels regularly to manage their condition.
- Type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, in which the body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin or the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin to keep up with the body’s needs. This eventually leads to high levels of glucose in the blood.
People with type 2 diabetes may need to make lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet, getting regular physical activity, and maintaining a healthy weight. Medication may also be needed to help manage blood sugar levels.
In both cases, employers can support employees with diabetes by providing resources, promoting a healthy lifestyle, participating in diabetes awareness events and providing education about diabetes management. Most people can manage their diabetes at work through careful planning and resourcefulness.
Tips For Effective Diabetes Management
Employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy work environment for all employees. For effective diabetes management at work, here are some tips to follow:
Provide Flexible Work Schedules
Employers must allow workers to adjust their working schedules to accommodate their medical needs. For example, having regular breaks allow people with diabetes to check their blood sugar levels and administer insulin injections when necessary.
Access To Healthy Food Options
Employers must encourage healthy eating habits among employees by providing access to healthy food options in the workplace These can be done through company-provided or subsidized healthy snacks or meal options.
Encourage Physical Activity
Encourage employees to take regular breaks to move around and provide access to nearby gyms or fitness classes.
Even simple activities like taking a short walk or muscle stretching in the seat can help with diabetes management. Encourage them to walk up and down the hall in their free time to get their heart rate up.
Provide reasonable accommodations for employees with diabetes, as per the Anti-Discrimination Act and the Fair Work Act. This can include adjustments to the work environment, equipment, or work processes.
Encourage the formation of support networks among employees to provide peer support and disseminate useful information.
Encourage regular check-ins with employees with diabetes to ensure they have the necessary support and accommodations to manage their condition effectively in the workplace.
Education And Training
Provide education and training to employees and managers on diabetes management, including how to recognize the symptoms of low blood sugar and how to respond in an emergency situation.
A First Aid Training course will teach employees how to spot diabetes warning signs and when to seek professional help.
Always have first aid tools on hand to treat a high-blood, low-blood sugar event. Store them in a safe location or keep a special bag nearby that everyone can access. Make sure that everyone knows how to use these tools in case of a diabetic emergency.
Employees with diabetes who are properly supported by employers are more likely to be productive, have better attendance, and have fewer work-related accidents.
Moreover, it will improve employee satisfaction, decrease turnover, and reduce healthcare costs for both the employee and the employer in the long run.
First Aid For Someone In A Diabetic Emergency
If you suspect someone is experiencing a diabetic emergency, it is important to act quickly and provide appropriate first aid.
Below are the general steps for providing first aid for someone in a diabetic emergency:
- Call for emergency medical assistance (Triple Zero – 000 immediately.)
- If the person is unconscious or unresponsive, check for signs of life (breathing and pulse) and perform CPR if necessary.
- If the person is conscious, check their blood sugar level if possible, and administer glucose if it is low or insulin if it is high.
- If the person is experiencing symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), such as confusion, dizziness, trembling, sweating, or seizures, administer a quick-acting source of glucose.
- If the person is experiencing symptoms of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), such as fruity breath, dry mouth, increased thirst, and increased urination, provide them with water to drink and help them monitor their blood sugar levels.
- Stay with the person and monitor their condition until emergency medical services arrive.
It is important to learn how to administer first aid or check blood sugar levels for an effective diabetes action plan. This will help provide initial care and establish the person’s condition until further help is available.
Also, if the person’s condition becomes worse or they are not responding to first aid measures, follow up with the emergency services or bring the person to the nearest ER.
Many businesses and organisations in Australia have developed workplace policies and programs to support employees with diabetes and promote healthy lifestyles for all employees. This includes promoting physical activity, healthy eating, and providing education about diabetes management.
Overall, it is important for employers and employees to work together to create an inclusive and supportive work environment for those with diabetes and other chronic health conditions.
Learn first aid for someone in a diabetic emergency. View our course page to find out more.