UKCW London: 7-9 May | ExCeL
UKCW Birmingham: 1-3 October | NEC


Diabetes – the hidden risk to industry

Kate Walker
A staggering third of people in the UK are either living with diabetes, have pre-diabetes, or are at increased risk of diabetes.

Each week, 170 amputations and 500 people sadly lose their life from this silent condition. Diabetes also poses increased risks in the workplace. Yet, it is a condition very few companies have considered as a risk across all aspects of the business from safety and compliance to productivity and wellbeing. The impact of ignoring this rising epidemic is costly, to individual lives, their families, companies, the NHS and UK productivity.

700 people a day are diagnosed with diabetes (one every two minutes), it is the leading cause of blindness in the working population and 75% of men who have diabetes, suffer from erectile dysfunction at some point. 

Diabetes is progressive, slowly impacting people’s health. As it cannot be seen in the early stages and the symptoms can be put down to late nights and other lifestyle factors, helping people and companies understand and manage the risk is crucial to today’s aging, busy workforce. 

Diabetes can cause people to black out or act as if drunk when they are not correctly managing their condition, often from a hypoglycaemic event (when the blood sugars drop low). Those on insulin are required by the DVLA to test two hours before driving and every two hours whilst driving. For those who know they have the condition, DVLA regulations can be met but there are 1 million people undiagnosed in the UK who may have less sensation in their feet or deteriorating vision. This increases risk for individuals, other road users and companies. One study stated that drivers with diabetes are 30% more likely to have an accident.

If people do not follow DVLA regulations criminal sanctions are in place. A driver who admitted to causing the death of woman in North Lanarkshire after suffering a diabetic fit was jailed for six years and eight months. A delivery driver who hid that he had diabetes and could black out at any time while behind the wheel from the DVLA and his employer was jailed for more than three and a half years for causing the death of a 53-year-old man. 


As yet there have been no criminal cases against employers, but we believe this is just a matter of time as employers have a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that their employees and those affected by what the employer does are not exposed to risk to their health and safety (Health and Safety at Work Act 1974). If someone had a diabetic episode on site/while driving for work that resulted in a serious or fatal accident and an employer had taken no steps to assess and reduce risk, then the employer would commit a criminal offence and face a significant fine. 


Taking reasonably practicable steps around diabetes safety does not need to be expensive to companies, there are simple measures that can be put in place to keep staff safe and healthier. Doing nothing after reading this article is not reasonably practicable. 


1 in 12 people are living with diabetes, this statistic is the same for companies. Has everyone in your company come forward to tell you if they have diabetes? Have you delivered diabetes awareness training to your staff, have those with the condition and roles that are required, been risk assessed and do you have policies and diabetes first aid kits across your business? If not, are you doing enough? 


Don’t let a diabetes related episode contribute to a workplace accident leaving you open to a criminal offence and facing significant fines. Take steps to make your company ‘diabetes safe’ and keep your staff in work and productive. Why not visit our stand B843 at UK Construction week or come and listen to our seminar on the 4thOctober at 14.05.



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