Q: We’re reviewing the contents of our on-site first-aid kit, and an employee suggested that we should include an EpiPen. Is that advisable?
A: The short answer is no.
An EpiPen, the common term for an epinephrine autoinjector, is a medical device for injecting a measured dose of epinephrine (adrenaline) and is available by prescription only.
It is most often used for the treatment of anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction to any number of substances, including certain foods, chemicals (latex for example), insect venom, and medications.
Anaphylaxis needs to be treated right away, or it can be deadly.
The generally recommended emergency treatment is an epinephrine shot, which increases heart rate and opens airways, and a 911 call.
However, medical care strategies for allergy conditions are personal and should remain so.
Although it is management's responsibility to ensure proper, prompt emergency care is available if and when needed, management should not assume the obligation and liability for diagnosing and treating emergency conditions such as a severe allergic reaction.
It is therefore not advisable to include an EpiPen in a first-aid kit.
Planning for Medical Emergencies
But having a plan and knowing what care is available via 911 or other local emergency personnel is key.
It is proper and permissible to discuss with employees possible emergency scenarios and request disclosure of known conditions that might require emergency care.
Treat that information as confidential medical information, but also share it with key personnel who might be charged with responsibility for triggering a proper response strategy, including administering an emergency injection with the affected employee's own device if the employee were unable to do so.
Due to liability issues, however, do not make assumptions about proper care or medication.
Instead, leave that to the employees themselves and their personal healthcare professionals, and never hesitate to call 911 if it appears to be the right call; better to have done so in error, than to have waited for confirmation that it is needed, but too late.