27th Mar, 2021 Read time 3 minutes

Health and Safety Risks from Diabetes and the Solutions

Diabetes affects 4.6 million people in the UK and poses health and safety risks many people and companies do not recognise. Someone is diagnosed with diabetes every 2 minutes, which equates to 700 people a day, a staggering 255,500 people a year.

There are two main types of diabetes. Type 1 develops when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, the cause of this is unknown. Type 2 is the most common type of diabetes. This develops when the body doesn’t make enough insulin or the insulin the body does make is not being used properly.

Type 2 diabetes can be hard to recognise in the early stages as the symptoms can be put down to late nights or other lifestyle factors. It is vital people get tested if they have any concerns. Some of the symptoms include

  • increased thirst
  • blurry vision
  • slow healing
  • frequent urination
  • tingling or numbness in the hands and feet

What makes diabetes a safety risk?

  • possibility of a hypo
    • sudden loss of consciousness
    • acting as if drunk
  • lack of sensation in feet while driving vehicles or machinery
  • impaired awareness
  • impaired concentration
  • impaired balance or co-ordination

Companies and organisations need to understand the condition fully and the impact it could have on their staff and business.

Implications for work include

  • increased time off for those not managing their condition or those undiagnosed
  • increased risk of accidents
  • not complying with the Equality Act
  • not providing appropriate places to test or take injectable medication
  • not complying with the Health and Safety at Work etc Act
  • not complying with DVLA regulations

The DVLA regulations state that people on insulin must check glucose levels no more than two hours before driving and tests must be repeated for every two hours of driving. This helps prevent the risk of a fatal hypo without imposing blanket bans as many people have their diabetes under control.

For those who know they have the condition, DVLA regulations can be met but there are       1 million people undiagnosed in the UK who may have less sensation in their feet or deteriorating vision and so be a risk to themselves and other road users.

To support staff at work, businesses should

  • increase awareness and understanding of the condition
  • educate those in high-risk roles
  • provide a non-judgmental environment where people feel they can talk about their condition (there is still a stigma about type 2 diabetes being associated with weight)
  • provide an appropriate place to test and take injectable medication
  • promote glucose testing according to DVLA regulations off-road
  • ensure specific diabetes safety risk assessments and safe systems of work are in place
  • adopt the Tackling Diabetes Safety Charter

There is, however, good news. People with type 2 diabetes can improve their personal health by making changes to their diet, increasing exercise etc. We know it is not easy to make sustained lifestyle changes, so we are encouraging the ‘One Less Challenge’.

One less sugar in your tea/coffee x 6 cups a day =1kg less a month, 12kg a year

One less biscuit x 3 times a week = 5.5 packets less a year

Simply having ‘One Less’ will have a significant and positive impact on blood sugar levels and internal health.

Diabetes is putting people at risk. Join us and sign up for the One Less Challenge and the Tackling Diabetes Safety Charter to help make a difference.


Kate Walker

Diabetes Safety Organisation

https://diabetessafety.org

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