Guide

Diseases, infections and allergies in the workplace

Risk of diseases, infections and allergies in the workplace

Every business is at risk from problems caused by diseases, infections and allergies.

For example, there may be an outbreak of a disease among the general public which could make it hard for the business to continue.

You should consider:

  • Do you have contact details for your staff so you can contact them and let them know if you expect them to come into work?
  • Could you cope if many of your employees were too unwell to attend work?

These issues could be covered in a business continuity plan. See business continuity and crisis management.

Make sure you consider the possible risks of diseases, infections and allergies when conducting your health and safety risk assessment. See health and safety risk assessment.

Specific industry risks for infections

Certain types of business do work which includes specific risks of infection. For example:

  • People involved in providing healthcare may come into contact with body fluids or other clinical waste. They need to be aware of clients who may be immuno-suppressed and need special care to protect them from infection.
  • People whose work involves cleaning or processing sewage (including plumbers) may need to clean up waste or other materials which could be carrying infectious materials.
  • Beauticians, tattooists or body piercers will be exposed to small amounts of blood.
  • Trades that work with animals can be at risk from diseases transmitted by animals. For example, farms and vets. 

Materials that can cause allergies

Asthma and allergies in the workplace may also be a problem. You may need to take particular care if you deal with:

  • latex
  • straw
  • plants
  • chemicals, such as fume from solder or some car spray paints
  • animal hair
  • flour dust

Food business risk

If your business deals with food, you must take precautions against food-borne infections and ensure your customers are aware of any allergy risks. Contaminated food could lead to halted production, recalled products and a damaged reputation.