Diabetes Week and Men’s Health Week 2018

Health and safety | June 2018

talk about diabetes campaign logo and illustration1 in 10 men now have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes

With Diabetes Uk’s Diabetes Week and Men’s Health Forum’s Men’s Health Week (which this year is all about diabetes) coinciding from 11 – 17 June 2018, there’s a great opportunity to raise awareness of the condition.

Employers take note

diabetes crisis infographicA recently published report by The Men’s Health Forum states that 1 in 10 men now have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. Men are more likely than women to have diabetes, and related complications such as lower limb disease and retinopathy (damage to the retina).

The workplace is a great place to raise awareness of diabetes, by encouraging everyone to talk more openly about diabetes, including with colleagues. And for employers, it’s a timely prompt to ensure organisations have a good understanding of how it can impact employees.

What causes diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the body attacks cells in the pancreas. This means it produces very little or no insulin at all. The cause of Type 1 diabetes is not yet fully understood.

Type 2 diabetes is caused when insulin produced can’t work properly, or the pancreas can’t make enough insulin.

In both cases, the lack of insulin means that glucose builds up, leading to high blood sugar levels. Over time this leads to complications with the heart, eyes, lower limbs and kidneys. It is also possible that people can experience mental health issues, such as stress and depression, after they have been diagnosed.

Risk factors

Whilst Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented, there are known risk factors for Type 2 diabetes. These include:

  • Age. Particularly if you’re white and over 40 or African-Caribbean, Black African or South Asian and over 25.
  • Having a close family member who has Type 2 diabetes.
  • Being overweight, have had high blood pressure, a heart attack or a stroke.
  • Gestational diabetes: women who develop this are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes after pregnancy.

Diabetes at work

diabetes blood testDiabetes UK estimates there are 4.5 million people in the UK living with diabetes, with 90% of these having Type 2. Given this prevalence, it’s important for employers to consider how they can support staff with related medical conditions to get back to, and stay in, work.

The NHS advises that returning to work often aids recovery, and the management of ill health. It is also good for mental wellbeing for those diagnosed to remain active and in work. There’s no legal requirement for an employee to tell their employer about medical conditions, so encouraging your workforce to feel comfortable talking about health is vital. This could mean:

  • Developing clear health, safety and wellbeing policies and strategies – and communicating them effectively to staff.
  • Carrying out studies to understand your employee demographic and hone your health and wellbeing communications, initiatives and employee benefits programme.
  • Training key people such as HR or line managers on supporting long term health conditions at work, and on making reasonable adjustments.

Reasonable workplace adjustments: what are they?

In most cases, providing the right level of support and reasonable adjustments means staff should be able to carry out their role effectively. But what are reasonable workplace adjustments?

The Equality Act 2010, places a requirement on employers to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people, including employees, to ensure they are not put at a substantial disadvantage to another person who is not disabled. Deciding what reasonable adjustments could be provided should be based on a form of risk assessment carried out with involvement from key people such as the individual, health and safety professionals, HR, line managers and occupational health specialists. It is also important to consider medical input from the individual’s diabetic care team or GP.

Reasonable adjustments could include:

  • Supporting individuals by being flexible at work so they can eat when needed, attend medical appointments and test their blood sugar as required.
  • Providing opportunities for people to rest if they have a role which requires strenuous handling or long periods of standing (diabetics may be more prone to fatigue and foot problems).
  • Reassigning work to other people (diabetics may have work restrictions placed on them for driving, working as airline crew and working in high risk environments such as on oil rigs or in the emergency services).
  • Making technological adjustments for individuals who experience changes in their eye health (diabetics can experience diabetic retinopathy which can lead to blindness), such as providing screen reader or screen magnification software.
  • Ensuring there are a suitable number of qualified first aiders to help, should an individual experience hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) whilst at work.

In most cases, people with long term health conditions, including diabetes, are very educated on their own condition and will be able to tell you what helps them. It is also important for the employer and employee to regularly review the adjustments made, to ensure they remain suitable.

Other considerations should include your customer or client base, and what general adjustments could be made to make their experience of your services better. Areas to look at could include website accessibility, and the use of ‘in branch’ self-service technology.

How we can help

As Diabetes Week and Men’s Health Week highlight, having good health, safety and wellbeing measures in place at work is key. This will reduce risk, boost employee morale, maintain workforce health, and position your organisation to attract top talent. And looking beyond your workforce, making sure your customer or client experiences are positive can also lead to repeat and new business, through personal recommendations.

We offer expert disability management services spanning the development of health, safety and wellbeing policies and strategies, carrying out physical access audits of workplaces, and accessibility audits of websites and technology, as well as individual ergonomic workplace assessments for employees.

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