Allergies in the Workplace:
Today let’s discuss some strategies for how to handle some basic allergies in the workplace. More and more employees are suffering from food allergies than ever before. There are the food allergies, like peanuts and gluten; scent allergies like perfume and smoke and chemical allergies like latex. Health Canada reports that up to four percent of Canadians have a diagnosed food allergy. Allergies that are diagnosed can be considered a disability and employers may find that they are in a position that they have a duty to accommodate the allergy. Allergies in the workplace falls primarily under two types of legislation: Health and Safety and the Human Rights Act.
“Employers are often concerned that accommodating a disability will violate provincial occupational health and safety requirements. This award provides some alleviation to those concerns by confirming that:
- An employer’s obligation to protect health and safety doesn’t require the employer to eliminate all possible conceivable risks. For example, in LHSC v. ONA, LHSC didn’t have to guarantee that the nurse would never come into contact with latex or suffer an allergic reaction.
- Provincial occupational health and safety requirements may be satisfied by transferring a disabled employee to a new position that would minimize health and safety risks.
What employers should do
If an employee’s allergy is severe enough to constitute a disability and is protected by human rights legislation, Canadian employers should:
- Seek all relevant medical information.
- Ask the employee for input.
- Conduct thorough investigations regarding available accommodation alternatives.
- Take reasonable precautions to ensure the health and safety of the employee and those around him or her.
- Determine what accommodation is required. In a unionized setting an employer should also consult with the union in determining whether there is a way for an injured or disabled employee to continue to work.
- Document all efforts to accommodate the employee.”