Managing allergies in the workplace

In this article, our expert H&S Consultant, Colin Jones, discusses allergies and how employers can manage them in the workplace.

It is well documented that there is a growing number of people who suffer from allergies in one form or another. These can be work-related allergies or something which developed from childhood. The triggers are numerous and include food, drugs, environmental (airborne), or synthetic materials.

The degree of an allergic reaction can be a small skin irritation or rash to a more severe reaction such as anaphylactic shock. The management of controlling exposure for those employees who do suffer from allergies can be a bit of a minefield and sometimes employers feel the need to go above and beyond to ensure those employees are safe. That is commendable but it needs to be considered in a practical manner.

Employers need to consider their control measures and information given to employees for all aspects of potential allergies. They can be caused by working in certain conditions which may bring on work-related asthma, dermatitis, or other conditions due to exposure to hazardous substances in the workplace.

Food Allergies

To prevent people with food allergies from suffering dangerous reactions, controlling allergens at work is crucial. Many symptoms can be life-threatening without proper treatment. Around ten people in the UK die from food allergies every year.

An estimated 1-2% of adults have a food allergy which equals around 2 million people. It’s therefore likely that someone in your workplace has an allergy and without caution, you could put them at serious risk of a reaction. Those who have food allergies should inform their employers. Employers should understand how to minimise allergy risks and prioritise managing food allergies in the workplace to keep them safe.

Those individuals who have severe allergies should have their own management plan and by and large, are able to control their risk of exposure and this should be known by you as the employer. This of course does mean you may need to take measures to accommodate them.

What Practical Steps can employers take to manage allergies?

If an employee has an allergy, they need to inform you.

The law doesn’t require them to do so but if they need accommodations then they must disclose it. As the employer, you can then provide as much information as possible, so people recognise the importance of suitable adjustments.

Check the ingredients of food 

The law requires food labels to highlight allergens in bold or with a warning so they are easily identifiable. If someone at work has an allergy, you must keep food containing the allergen away from them and prevent cross-contamination. Use different utensils and avoid handling their food after yours.

Separate storage and utensils. 

Residue on forks and plates, even after cleaning, can trigger a reaction, so people with allergies should have their own dinnerware and chopping boards. They should clean and store their food and utensils in their own cupboard or fridge shelf if this is possible.


Workplaces should allow people with allergies time off to attend allergy-related appointments. They should recognise that people may need unexpected sick days off if they suffer a reaction and need time to recover.

Social events should accommodate allergies. 

For example, if colleagues prepare cakes to share, they should either avoid using ingredients that certain people are allergic to or use warning labels. If workers plan a lunch out, they should go somewhere that provides proper allergen information on the menu.

First aiders or the appointed person should know how to respond to reactions. 

If the need arises, they should know where to find and how to administer the person’s epi-pen or auto-injector. Ordinarily, those affected can recognise early signs and administer the injector themselves. Ideally, even co-workers will know how to help in an emergency.

Sanitise and Clean Surfaces.

Ensure that communal areas are always clean and encourage everyone to sanitise surfaces and dispose of food waste appropriately.

What can oneSafe do to help?

We have a team of expert Health & Safety consultants who can provide you with advice regarding allergies and how to manage them within your workplace.

For help managing allergies in the workplace or to book on to our upcoming First Aid course please don’t hesitate to get in contact with our team of experts.

T: 0330 107 1037


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