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Laurie Harada: Food Allergy Advice

The Summer Job, with Food Allergies

First duty: inform the boss.
To avoid any unexpected situations, it’s ideal to tell a superior about your food allergies during initial training or the first day on the job. Supply an anaphylaxis emergency plan that includes what you are allergic to, where you keep your epinephrine auto-injector and emergency contacts to call if a reaction occurs. 

Some managers may have more experience with allergic employees than others. If this area is new to them, be clear in explaining your food allergies and needs. You may even be able to help shape new policies that will assist future employees with allergies.

As a general rule, the sooner management knows about an employee’s food allergy, the better. So parents shouldn’t be hesitant to check in with their teen to ensure all supervisors have been informed.

Think of co-workers like friends.
Allergic reactions can happen in the work-place, and like home or school, those closest to you should know about your allergies and how they can help. Tell fellow employees in an informal way; possibly bring it up over lunch or casually in conversations during your first week on the job.

Have your auto-injector with you at all times, and let fellow staff members know where it’s located. Using a training device, you may want to teach those who work closely with you when and how to use it, so they can be prepared to help in a reaction.

Identify the hazard zones.
You will likely encounter a kitchen area or staff room where employees can have a snack or meal during their breaks. Be on the lookout for the cleanliness of the space and what food is supplied or brought by other staff In addition to your lunch, it’s a good idea to bring reusable containers and cutlery rather than using communal kitchenware.

Also, use caution with shared microwaves, which may not be cleaned regularly, leaving residual food on surfaces. If you still feel the space isn’t trustworthy; talk to management about other options, such as a separate room designated as “allergy-safe”.

Although we all have the right to a safe workplace, accidents can happen in any environment. It’s important to reduce the risk as much as possible by taking the steps Kyle’s group raises at the beginning of your employment. Then a student can focus on having a great summer experience while earning some hard-earned cash.

Laurie Harada is Executive Director of Anaphylaxis Canada, www.anaphylaxis.ca.