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Returning to the workforce...long rambly rant!

4 replies [Last post]
By princesshinmighty on Thu, 07-20-06, 07:14

This is along the same lines as the "Have you trained your co-workers thread", but not really...

I've recently returned to a "normal" working environment (call center). For the past 7 years, I've either been working in a smaller, (semi-controllable) environment or at home, so I haven't really had to worry about such things as "company break rooms" or shared equipment (much).

The company I work for now has about 1000 employees at just the one location, throughout the day. Everyone that I've talked to about the allergies and my concerns seems concerned and friendly about it. My training class-mates are all really good about trying to avoid the items I'm allergic to and/or telling me and our trainers if they've had any contact with peanuts/pb/peanut oil/etc during our breaks or before work, so that we're not sharing papers or desk areas, or having to do exercises where we're too close, etc.

I've gotten up and told the class about this lta and a lot of them are actually fairly well pre-educated about PA, most of them have kids - some have worked in a day care center or hospital, etc. They're all understanding about why I have been seen scrubbing the break room microwaves before putting my own food in, why I wipe down everything I get, etc.

I know I am being slightly over-protective of myself during training, since I can't miss a minute of training, and definately don't want to have to go to the ER before my bennies kick in. Thing is, I've not had to deal with the general public much since the allergy got to this point (contact, aero & ingestion rxns). When I have dealt with the general public in the past 7 years, it's been short term (one afternoon events, etc) instead of long term (40+ hours a week).

OTOH, I'm scared to death of when I go out in the "real world" at work. Right now, I basically go into my classroom, which is shared with only 1 or two other groups during the day -- whom are all instructed with "no nuts - if you eat nuts at break, wash your hands thoroughly, rinse your mouth out if possible" etc. So there are like two people who would be sitting at my desk besides me.

However, starting tmrw, and continuing for the next few weeks, we'll be spending more and more time working with "buddies" who've been working at the call center for a while. We'll also be out on the floor with the "general public" of the other co-workers. Even though there is a "strict" no-eating on the floor policy, I've seen it happen, and I won't be sitting at the same desks every day, nor using the same equipment every day when we're out there.

Basically, I'm scared. I don't know what to expect, and I'm tired of being looked at like I'm a "germophobic freak" in the break rooms (you try carrying around a bottle of lysol & chlorox wipes -- in a call center where generally people spill stuff and figure someone else will clean it up! The looks you get...) I've been keeping an up-beat attitude about it and trying to explain to anyone else near the microwaves or sitting around me WHY I'm doing what I'm doing...but that's quickly getting old. I spend more of my break cleaning than taking care of things I need to take care of (bathroom, food, etc) because I'm just really scared.

In our vending machines, we have 10 different items that CONTAIN or ARE peanuts. This is in a standard sized vending machine. The only thing in there safe for me to eat is chips and goldfish. (And I can't even have half of the types of chips due to other FAs). Though I'm not too concerned with what I can't have, as I usually bring my own food, I just feel it's kind of hard to swallow that they (HR, supervisors, etc etc) are telling me that they will accomodate my needs, but they're making it so that people have access to almost nothing but nut-containing foods. They have a little "kiosk" vendor -- what do they have? Oh that's right - Snickers Ice Cream bars, etc. There's no where that I can turn that I feel safe.

I really want to work here, it's a good job, lots of room for growth, lots of good people, the pay is acceptable, etc...so quitting already is not an option for me. But what have you all done? I know some of you have companies that have gone "nut-free" (except for personalities, and we can't help them sometimes haha jk) even without your asking them to...

Like I said earlier, I know I'm "over-reacting" a bit, but I have to make it through training without incident. Once my training & 90 days of non-bennies period ends, I'll probably lax up, a lot, until a reaction happens...but in the meantime, I just feel uncertain.

I guess the major benefit is that most people are learning about allergies and their severity..And that's always been my thing -- if people would just listen and be educated on things like this, then maybe we won't have as many people saying "My kid isn't giving up their pb&j's just so that your kid can be in the classroom with them".

Oh and the funny thing is, I didn't ask for all of this -- I just asked that the class didn't eat any around me, and that I have permission to put up some signs around my workstation reminding people of the no-food rule and specifically requesting no nuts be consumed within a cubicle or two in each direction of mine...and ESPECIALLY not at my desk, when I'm there or not...but I showed up for my training and there was a can of lysol & chlorox wipes on my table. If nothing else, the training room & break room will be sparkling clean for everyone!!!

Sorry for the long ramble and rant...I'm just letting off some steam. I've had a long week already and it's only wednesday! Since I took this job, I never get to see my SO, except when he's sleeping (or if I happen to wake up as he's leaving, rushing out the door -- but usually I'm so incoherant at that time, that I can't even manage much more than a grunt!) and arrrrgh!!!

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By LisaM on Thu, 07-20-06, 17:36

Starting a new job is stressful--*so* much stressful with allergies. I hope that things get less stressful when you settle in to the new job.

Yeah, it would be safer if your workplace were peanut free, but at least there is some measure of protection with the food free desk space. Do you think that management would be willing to train coworkers on allergy management? (If you can't get an allergen reduced environment, how about if coworkers are informed about epipen administration. Also, I think that people should maybe be more careful in the lunchroom with spills, etc. wash their hands after eating before returning to work. I don't have any experience negotiating these things--but that it seems to me is reasonable to expect if people insist on consuming peanut products.)

It's hard when people think that people with food allergies are neurotic (characters in the media like Niles Crane from Frasier don't help the cause any), but we gotta do what we gotta do!

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By starlight on Thu, 07-20-06, 19:18

Something about the vending machines that might be helpful:

I've worked in places with vending machines, and all my schools had vending machines (including my dorm).

Your employer probably has no control over what ends up in the vending machine. They more than likely have a contract with the dude that owns the machine, who then shows up every week to refill it. That dude who owns the machine is the one who picks stuff to go in it.

So maybe you can ask around, figure out when the vending machine guy usually shows up, and approach him and ask him not to put peanuts in the machine?

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By princesshinmighty on Fri, 07-21-06, 05:48

Okay so I wasn't taking enough precautions, apparantly, because I had my first small reaction tonight. we were taken to another room for a graduation for one of the other training classes. We were just told to take our purses, and nothing else, so i didn't even think about it, and SHOULD have taken the chlorox wipes. we were taken to a break room and told to have seats. I sat down and tried to avoid touching anything. When we got back to the class room, my arm started breaking out in hives and itching...It must have swiped across the table or when I stood up i probably unconsciously pushed off off the table.

I immediately took a benedryl and alerted the trainer. 3 people turned around and asked if I was okay, so atleast they are aware of what is going on. I'll be fine, just need to put some cream on it or somethng and go to bed...but I thought I'd share. UGH I hate this. I feel like crying now [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/frown.gif[/img]

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By ajgauthier on Fri, 07-21-06, 16:37

Quote:Originally posted by princesshinmighty:
[b]Okay so I wasn't taking enough precautions, apparantly, because I had my first small reaction tonight. we were taken to another room for a graduation for one of the other training classes. We were just told to take our purses, and nothing else, so i didn't even think about it, and SHOULD have taken the chlorox wipes. we were taken to a break room and told to have seats. I sat down and tried to avoid touching anything. When we got back to the class room, my arm started breaking out in hives and itching...It must have swiped across the table or when I stood up i probably unconsciously pushed off off the table.

I immediately took a benedryl and alerted the trainer. 3 people turned around and asked if I was okay, so atleast they are aware of what is going on. I'll be fine, just need to put some cream on it or somethng and go to bed...but I thought I'd share. UGH I hate this. I feel like crying now [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/frown.gif[/img][/b]

I don't want what I'm about to say be taken in the wrong way. First, I'm sorry you had a reaction...but...now the "proof is in the pudding" --- you had a contact reaction and the trainer/others saw it. Now they should *know* it's serious...

Have you reported the incident to HR? You definitely should...there are usually special forms and procedures for reporting a work related incident/accident. It's not like you are applying for workman's comp...but...you have been hired, and, they are now obligated to provide a safe environment for you.

From what I've read of your work situation...

- if there is no food allowed on the work floor...then there is no food allowed on the work floor period.
- if you have shared desk space/phone...then that desk space should be the same for you everyday, signs should be placed up about your allergy/no food, and you should have your own keyboard/phone/mouse/etc. that get stored for you (maybe in your locker/desk drawer?) that are JUST FOR YOU...not shared items.

It stinks that you probably won't feel comfortable enough to eat with your coworkers...however...I always liked getting out of the building during lunch. I'd bring a beach chair and camp out under a tree in the parking lot for 45 minutes. Quite refreshing [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img] (though I guess it depends on your climate).

GOOD LUCK [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img] Your requests will go a long way and have more of a chance of being accepted if you go into the conversations organized (bring a list of points to cover) and with a smile. Only take the "demand" tone if the conversation starts to go where you don't want it to go.

Adrienne

------------------
30-something survivor of severe peanut/tree nut allergy

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