26 March is Purple Day – raising awareness of epilepsy

Photo by David Baxendale via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence.

Photo by David Baxendale via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence.

Purple Day (26th March each year) is an international day for epilepsy awareness. This year, the organisers of Purple Day hope to ‘turn the world purple’ – people can do anything they like to mark the day, so long as it’s purple.

Purple was chosen to represent the day based on the colour lavender, which is the international colour for epilepsy; the lavender flower is also often associated with solitude, which is representative of the feelings of isolation many people affected by epilepsy and seizure disorders often feel.

According to Epilepsy Action, epilepsy affects one in every 103 people in the UK, yet it is a very misunderstood (and therefore feared) and stigmatised condition. It is a condition of the brain that is characterised by recurrent seizures (when there is a sudden excessive electrical discharge that disrupts the normal activity of the nerve cells in the brain), which can take many different forms, including  muscle spasms, uncontrolled movements, altered awareness, odd sensations, ‘losing a few minutes’ and not knowing what has happened, or convulsions. If epilepsy is successfully controlled by medication, a person may be seizure-free so there is no reason why they shouldn’t lead a normal working life.

Employers need to carry out a risk assessment of employees diagnosed with epilepsy in order to identify any possible safety risks to the employee or others in the workplace. As epilepsy affects each person differently and every workplace is different it is not possible to have set guidelines for risk assessments for people with epilepsy. A risk assessment may indicate that a person’s epilepsy would have little effect on their ability to continue with their job, that some changes may be needed (i.e. avoiding the use of dangerous machinery) or, in some cases, that certain parts of a person’s job pose too much risk and should therefore be avoided. Information from the risk assessment (and subsequent re-assessments) should then be used to make reasonable adjustments in the workplace.

More information on epilepsy can be found in the epilepsy guide on our website. Or, for information on keeping employees and workplaces healthy, see the Health for Work Adviceline website, blog or knowledge base. To request a Purple Pack to find out more information about how to become involved in Purple Day, visit Epilepsy Action’s website.

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