ROANOKE, Va. — Many managers plan what to do if there is an epidemic outbreak, a massive snow fall, flooding or a tornado. But how many of us have definite plans in place as to what to do when an employee has health problems at work?
In this column, I won’t be talking about a headache or a fever. Instead, I am talking about what you should do if any employee has a serious issue, like passing out at work.
I ran into this problem with one of my long-term employees who was very well liked and a very good performer. She was having trouble managing her blood pressure and suddenly fainted, passed out, at work. She was out for about a minute and then woke up and begged her fellow employees not to tell management or call an ambulance but to just call her sister and let her go home and rest. On the surface that sounded like a reasonable request.
But the more we thought about it, the more it bothered my management staff. As upsetting as it was to have such a long-term employee suffering from a medical problem, we came to realize how much worse it would be on the staff if she went home and died because we failed to get her the medical attention she needed. She was asking us to make a decision we were not qualified to make.
The problem was that this kept happening on a monthly or every-other-month basis. So, after careful consideration, we developed a policy that was designed to protect the employee, as well as the rest of the staff.
We were an off-site healthcare laundry and did not have a full-time nurse on staff, so we decided that if any employee passed out or fainted on the job that an ambulance must be called, and they would make the medical determination as to what was best for the patient.
We also included anyone who became too weak to stand or walk. This policy was used a number of times while I was still in management at that laundry.
I think the policy clarified our responsibilities to each other and those of management. It improved our response time to these events because an ambulance was called for within seconds of the employee having problems.
Employees knew what to do and felt good that they took appropriate actions. We all knew that it was the responsible, medically correct action to take.
The policy also required the employee to have medical clearance before they could return to work. This ensured that appropriate medical attention was given, and that a doctor had cleared the employee to return to work. The fact that all the employees were treated the same regardless of color, sex, national origin or any other protected factor made the policy very effective.
I urge all managers to think about and review their department policy on how to deal with these events. If you have never had to deal with them so far you are lucky. But rest assured, your time is coming.
It is better to be prepared for this possibility than it is to have to blindly react when it happens. It is better for everyone to be on the same page so that immediate action is taken regardless of whether you are in the department or not.
An empowered staff will always make the right decision.