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Managing diabetes at work: What employers can do

Photo: Kwangmoozaa/iStockphoto

Diabetes is a medical condition in which the body can’t produce enough insulin or can’t adequately use the insulin it has produced. Insulin is the hormone that controls the level of glucose – a form of sugar – in the bloodstream by regulating its movement into cells. Insulin is necessary because glucose is a main source of energy for the body’s cells.

Employers typically are required to accommodate employees with diabetes, according to the Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety. Accommodations may include time and a private place to administer any medications or conduct blood sugar tests, the ability to keep food nearby, or a schedule of regular breaks to maintain a prescribed diet.

Other ways the center says employers can help are:

  • Provide time off for workers to attend medical appointments.
  • Include diabetes prevention and management information in any workplace health or wellness program.
  • Educate employees at all levels about diabetes so they’re aware of the needs of co-workers with the condition and know how best to accommodate them.
  • Ask employees with diabetes what accommodations they think would best suit them. This may include an area for workers to rest until their blood sugar levels become normal. “Not all people with diabetes will need the same accommodations. Some may need a private area to test their blood sugar levels or to administer insulin injections while others may not.”
  • Change an employee’s work schedule, if necessary.
  • Ensure the internal first aid team is trained on how to assist workers who have diabetes.
  • Provide sharps disposal if insulin is administered with needles.
  • Offer healthy food choices in cafeterias, vending machines, meetings, etc.

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