Diabetes: What Your Workers Need to Know

Your employees may have diabetes and not know it. Our Safety Training Tips editor says that more than one-quarter of people with the condition are undiagnosed. For this reason alone, it’s important to educate your workers on the dangers of this common condition.

Tell employees that people with diabetes are more likely to have:

  • Heart attacks and strokes

  • High blood pressure
  • Blindness
  • Kidney disease
  • Amputations
  • Nervous system disorders

Adults who are overweight or obese (especially those over age 45) are at greatest risk. Other risk factors include:

  • Being physically inactive

  • Having a parent, brother, or sister with diabetes
  • Giving birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds
  • Having high blood pressure—140/90 or above—or being treated for high blood pressure
  • Having HDL, or “good,” cholesterol below 35 mg/dL, or a triglyceride level above 250 mg/dL
  • Having impaired fasting glucose (IFG) or impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) on previous testing
  • Having a history of cardiovascular disease

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Give workers the good news that they can prevent Type 2 diabetes by following these tips:

  • Get more physical activity.

  • Physical activity lowers blood sugar and boosts your sensitivity to insulin.
  • Get at least 30 minutes of exercise, 5 days a week.
  • Brisk walking is an easy, low-cost way to get that physical activity.
  • Eat foods that are high in fiber and low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars.
  • Add more fiber to your diet; eat plenty of fruits and vegetables—especially raw.
  • Choose whole-grain cereals and bread.
  • Eat brown rice rather than white.
  • Practice moderation in consuming alcohol.
  • Lose extra weight.
  • In one study, overweight adults who lost a modest amount of weight—5 percent to 10 percent of initial body weight—and exercised regularly reduced the risk of developing diabetes by 58 percent over 3 years. That would be only 10 to 20 pounds for someone weighing 200.


Diabetes doesn’t always have obvious signs, but inform your workers of these possible symptoms:

  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Extreme hunger
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Increased fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Blurry vision

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Encourage employees to get tested. Diabetes is treatable through diet, exercise, and medication—as long as workers know they have it.

  • A simple blood test can determine if you have diabetes.
  • Everybody should be tested by the time they reach middle age.
  • If you haven’t been tested, get tested this month.

Why It Matters

  • More than 2 million Americans have diabetes, and more than one-quarter of those cases are undiagnosed.
  • 7 percent of the American population has diabetes.
  • More than 10 percent of men over age 20 and 9 percent of women over age 20 have diabetes.
  • 90 percent to 95 percent of people who get diabetes are overweight, are physically inactive, or have a family history of diabetes.
  • African Americans are almost twice as likely to have diabetes as whites, and Hispanics, and Native Americans are also at higher risk.