Anaphylaxis is a life threatening allergic reaction that can develop quickly, affecting many different body organs and systems.
Allergic reactions can be mild, affecting only the skin, to severe, affecting the airways and/or the heart, resulting in death.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics recorded 324 deaths from anaphylaxis between 1997 and 2013, with men more likely to die than women.
Most deaths were attributed to an unspecified cause (205 people), followed by 52 from medication and 41 from insect bites.
A further 23 people died from food allergies during that time while three died from blood products.
The literature shows almost all medication deaths occurred in older adults with multiple conditions, while people aged under 30 made up the bulk of the deaths from food.
A combination of awareness and administration control strategies are the most effective in managing anaphylaxis in the workplace.
Any employee who has been diagnosed with severe allergy and been prescribed an adrenaline autoinjector such as an EpiPen®/Anapen® should have an action plan for anaphylaxis kept with their adrenaline autoinjector.
Severely allergic employees who carry an adrenaline auto injector should inform the employer, supervisor or person in charge of its location, such as desk, backpack or handbag. Ideally, the employee should be encouraged to disclose they are at risk of severe allergic reactions when they first start with an organisation.
Colleagues can be trained to recognise severe allergic reactions and administer adrenaline via an autoinjector.
Most first aid providers (e.g. Red Cross, St John Ambulance) provide training in anaphylaxis management during their first aid courses and St John provides a stand-alone Anaphylaxis First Aid Course.
Other general recommendations for anaphylaxis in the workplace include:
- Be considerate of those with severe food allergy when eating in the workplace i.e. wash your hands after eating. When a workplace celebration or training is planned where food is provided, the employee with food allergies should be consulted and the menu be adapted accordingly.
- Place some information about severe allergies in work memos, circulars, newsletters and industry publications.
- Use notice boards to place information about severe allergies.
►Need further advice? Contact CCI’s Safety and Risk team now on (08) 9365 7415 to speak to one of our expert safety consultants.