Following the recent success of National ‘’Purple Day’’ to raise general epilepsy awareness, it seems right to raise the issue of workplace safety for employees diagnosed with epilepsy.
Epilepsy varies by individuals and this needs to be taken into account when assessing risks from a health and safety perspective. Factors such as the type of epilepsy the employee has, the frequency and type of seizures suffered and how seizures affects the person, will determine the level of risk the epilepsy of the individual poses. The employee affected is best placed to advise you of their circumstances and requirements.
Also, place of work is another important factor. For instance, lone working is a greater risk for epilepsy suffers than working in a busy office.
Areas to explore include:
- If they usually know that a seizure is going to happen, possibly enabling them to get to a safe place in advance, reducing the risk of an accident or injury.
- Their surroundings could be a safety risk if they have seizures where they become unconscious, they become confused or are only partly aware of what is happening around them. If, for example, they are near water, at a height or using machinery, this could be particularly significant.
- The need to take medication as prescribed if their seizures are controlled by this means there may be no specific risks to them related to having seizures, as long as they are taking their medicine and you are facilitating this as an employer.
Safety Aids and Equipment
In the event of a seizure causing the employee to fall suddenly, safety helmets could afford a level of protection if it is decided that this is a reasonably practical control measure.
To raise the alarm to summon help, an employee could have a personal alarm that could be activated in the event of a seizure. There are different versions of alarms for different types of seizure. A fall resulting from a seizure could activate one type. Others can be activated by the employee themselves if they feel a seizure is imminent. If it an audible type alarm, it will need to be in such proximity to be heard by other employees to be effective. Advanced models that could alert assistance remotely from some distance by a variety of means are also worth investigating.
Some people carry an ID card or wear medical jewellery which says they have epilepsy and how to help during a seizure. This is useful to colleagues and an informative measure.
Employers are required to consider ‘reasonable adjustments’ under the Equality Act 2010, so that a person with a disability is not at a disadvantage compared to someone without a disability.
An employer can ask about an employee’s health if it helps to make reasonable adjustments. If questions are asked that are not relevant to the job, or an employee’s health is used as a reason for dismissing them, this could be discriminatory.
Not everyone with epilepsy will need adjustments and those needed vary, depending on the employee’s needs.
Helpful adjustments to consider include:
- making the workspace safer for the event of a seizure
- avoiding lone working
- replacing some duties of the job with another employee’s where deemed to mitigate risk
- adapting equipment or providing support to assist the employee to do their job
- separate time off for medical appointments from that classed as ‘’sick leave’’
Involve the employee in the risk assessment. Their opinions should be considered.
A risk assessment normally would include looking at:
- Nature of the work activity
- Identify the risks to safety for anyone doing this activity
- Depending on the type of seizure the employee has, identify what is it about epilepsy that may put the employee, or other people, at risk
- Current mitigating actions
- Measures to make the activity safer
- Who is responsible and when the actions should be completed
First aiders should be aware of the potential for seizures for effected employee. This can be mentioned as a control measure in the risk assessment.
First Aid Actions:
- protect the employee from injury by removing any hazards during the seizure
- note the time seizure starts/duration of the seizure
- cushion their head if safe to do so
- look for an epilepsy identity card or identity jewellery to confirm the situation and actions
- gently place them in the recovery position once the seizure has finished to aid breathing
- until recovery is complete, remain with the employee
- restrain the employee
- put anything in their mouth
- move them unless they are in danger
- give them anything to eat or drink until they are fully recovered
When to call an ambulance:
- the seizure is more than five minutes in duration
- the person does not regain consciousness between one tonic-clonic seizure that is followed by another
- the seizure results in the employee being injured
- urgent medical attention is required
- the employee has no know history of seizures
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