BY: Kaelyn Lacefield

Going to work while suffering with allergies is hardly ideal. Allergies impact productivity and the ability to function in the workplace. From pollen and dust to food allergies and chemical sensitivities, creating an environment where everyone can work comfortably and safely is essential. Here’s a guide on how to function and manage allergies in the workplace. 

Young office worker sitting at office desk and working, she is having a cold and blowing her nose with a tissue

Allergens in the workforce can stem from various sources. 

  • Environmental Allergies: These airborne allergens such as mold, pollen, dust mites and pet dander can infiltrate indoor environments, triggering allergic reactions. 
  • Food allergies: This can easily happen in the workplace. Allergic reactions to food can be triggered by shared breakroom spaces, communal snacks or cross contamination. 
  • Chemical Sensitivities: Certain cleaning solutions, fragrances and building materials can cause allergic reactions or sensitivities. 

Industrial compounds, agrochemicals and commercial chemicals can irritate skin if workers do not take precautions and measures to protect themselves. 

For Employers: Creating an Allergy Friendly Workplace 

Employers play a crucial role in managing allergies in the workplace. Implementing thoughtful policies and practices can help reduce the risk of allergic reactions and ensure a healthy, productive work environment.

  1. Develop and Implement Policies
  • Allergy Reporting: Establish a transparent process for employees to report their allergies confidentially. This helps in planning and implementing necessary precautions.
  • Fragrance-Free Policy: Consider instituting a fragrance-free policy to minimize exposure to perfumes and scented products that can trigger allergies.
  1. Improve Air Quality
  • HVAC Maintenance: Regularly service HVAC systems and use high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters to reduce airborne allergens.
  • Ventilation: Ensure adequate ventilation throughout the workplace to help disperse allergens.
  1. Enhance Cleaning Protocols
  • Hypoallergenic Cleaning Products: Avoid triggering chemical sensitivities by using hypoallergenic, fragrance-free cleaning products.
  • Regular Cleaning: Implement a strict cleaning schedule to keep dust, mold, and other allergens at bay. Pay special attention to common areas and ventilation systems.
  1. Manage Food Allergies
  • Clear Labeling: Ensure all food items in communal areas are labeled with ingredient lists. This helps employees with food allergies make safe choices.
  • Allergen-Free Zones: Create designated areas where employees can eat or store allergen-free foods to prevent cross-contamination.
  1. Educate and Train Employees
  • Awareness Programs: Conduct regular training sessions to educate employees about common allergens and how to avoid them.
  • Emergency Procedures: Train employees on recognizing and responding to allergic reactions, including using epinephrine auto-injectors (EpiPens).
  1. Provide Necessary Supplies
  • Personal Cleaning Supplies: Provide employees with personal cleaning supplies, such as hypoallergenic wipes, to keep their workspaces clean.
  • First Aid Kits: Ensure that first aid kits are well-stocked with allergy medications and that employees know where to find them.
  1. Flexible Work Arrangements
  • Remote Work Options: Offer remote work options for employees with severe allergies, especially during high pollen seasons or building renovations.
  • Adjustable Work Hours: Allow flexible work hours to help employees avoid peak allergy times, such as commuting during high pollen counts.

Tips for Employees: Functioning with Allergies

Be Prepared

  • Medication: Make necessary medications, such as antihistamines and EpiPens, readily available.
  • Emergency Contacts: Ensure your emergency contact information is up-to-date and easily accessible.

Maintain Personal Hygiene

  • Hand Washing: Regularly wash your hands to reduce the risk of transferring allergens to your face or food.
  • Avoid Touching Your Face: Minimize touching your face to prevent allergens from causing reactions.

Communicate Needs

  • Speak Up: Don’t hesitate to communicate your needs and concerns to your employer and colleagues.
  • Collaborate: Work with your employer to find reasonable accommodations that allow you to work comfortably and safely.

Managing allergies in the workplace requires a proactive and collaborative approach. By fostering an environment of awareness, cleanliness, and open communication, employers can help ensure the well-being of all employees. Implementing these strategies enhances productivity and demonstrates a commitment to a healthy and inclusive workplace.

Creating a supportive atmosphere where everyone feels safe from allergens can lead to a more harmonious and productive work environment, benefiting employees and the organization.

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