From Seabrook, Texas, USA:
I am the Safety Manager for a small company which has employees stationed throughout the country. We work in numerous chemical refineries, paper mills and power plants and our jobs are considered safety sensitive in most of these facilities. I am a diabetic and do not have a problem telling my fellow workers that I am. However, due to confidentiality rules such as HIPPA, I am unsure whether I can legally talk about a recent incident that we had to our other employees through a safety notice to capture learning opportunities. An employee was hired in with a sore on his leg and we suggested that he obtain a release from his physician before he came to work for us. His personal physician released him to come to work for us and, just recently, I was made aware that this employee had diabetes and was making every kind of excuse to his supervisor about feeling bad, tired etc. without telling the supervisor that he had diabetes and was not taking care of it. He let the sore on his leg get so bad that he now has a staph infection and was ordered by our occupational physician to leave work and seek medical care from his personal physician.Can we suggest to the employees that have diabetes that we should be informed about their condition due to the fact that if they do not and treat the disease like the above employee did, they jeopardize their safety and the safety of their fellow workers? The owner of our company would never keep somebody from working with us just because they have diabetes, however, due to the fact that we work in safety sensitive positions, I think we must know who has diabetes so we can offer as much assistance and support as necessary.
I think you could ask employees to disclose voluntarily any health information or medical conditions for which they are under treatment. I would not specifically focus on diabetes, but you could possibly give a few fictional scenarios to include diabetes as well as other chronic illnesses or even brief or minor illnesses. If you give the employees the rationale of why this is an important safety issue, employees may be willing to disclose this information. I am not sure of the legal implications and if you can "force" someone to disclose health information if it affects the job.
Additional comments from Dr. Larry Deeb:Great question! The American Diabetes Association has a winning at work program which you can find on their web site. That will give information. I am not a lawyer, but you are correct as to safety and managing diabetes. That's for others smarter than me to answer, but the program above will help those with diabetes and at risk to get diabetes.
Original posting 18 Jan 2007
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Last Updated: Tuesday April 06, 2010 15:10:10
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