Epilepsy and bench working

hi all ray blundell from sometimes sunny southport uk…hope i can
get some feedback here. health and saftey exec seenm unhelpful with

have been approached by nice lad for a job in my shop ut his dream
is to be a bench jockey hes got mild epilepsy and has been rejected
in the past on the grounds of this. being a life long benchman and
having worked in the past with fellows of the same ails b4 the
h+safty regs am confused as to where i stand. hes realy keen and i
have trained enough lads ands lasses to spot the drive and keeness
to make a go of the tuition,i hate to see the trade loose a possible
good player and lose the joy of creation that comes from this
wonderful job/life we enjoy. or has he have to settle for the job of
shop assistant in a high level of ability and knowledge because of
his disability with regards to any regs which i cant find help and
advice would be appreciated happy hammring to all ray

In my other life, outside of the jewelry genre, we employed diabetics
and epileptics in the provision of emergency medical services
(paramedics). These folk were quality caregivers and performed
without problem. There should be no problem with an epileptic working
at a bench. the epilepsy should be well controlled with the
medication he/she is taking.


I have no clue what your UK regs are, but I used to work with a guy
who was a serious alcoholic. He was a wax-head and made incredibly
intricate and beautiful waxes. I asked how he was able to accomplish
this feat. His reply: I work between shakes.

I’ve known several people with epilepsy. Depending on how ‘mild’ his
epilepsy is, and what sort of seizures he has, it might not affect
his bench work at all.

Talk to him and find out the details of how his illness affects him.
Have him describe his seizures. Some epilepsy seizures aren’t even
visible to onlookers, and some only cause a few seconds of loss of
motor control. If he has gran mal seizures, that could affect other
workers in the shop adversely because those are disturbing to
witness. Ask if he’s on medication to control seizures, and if so,
how does it affect him? Does it make him sleepy or woozy? That could
be an issue, but perhaps that could be worked around.

The only truly serious risk I could foresee in this fellow working
at a bench is if he were to have a seizure during torch work and drop
the torch. If you could find/fashion a torch with a “dead man” switch
on it so it would shut off if he let go of it, that would settle that
issue simply.

Kathy Johnson
Feathered Gems Jewelry

Hi Ray,

Having been rejected from a position in the government due to a
disability I can definitely sympathise. There was no recourse, or
appeal, due to the nature of the position discussing it openly runs
the risk of prosecution. This is an extreme case, and if it was a
private sector position I could have had them up for discrimination.

I think you should give him a chance, and have him sit beside
someone when he’s doing jobs that you think might be risky. If he has
a seisure, then the offsider can step in and take control.

People with a disability can offer a lot to society, and maybe this
applicant will surprise you.

Regards Charles A.

You need to consult with his physician. Epilepsy can manifest itself
in so many ways that a blanket answer is really not appropriate. As
a thumb of rule. If he can drive than he can work on the bench. But
please consult his physician.

Hi Ray,

As far as employment law is concerned here in the UK it would be
discrimination to refuse to offer him the job because of his
disability without first considering whether it is possible to make
’reasonable adjustment’ to accomodate him. This could be done in any
number of ways but by the sounds of it a little extra vigilance and
supervision from those around him may well be enough. Many people who
suffer epilepsy are on prescriptions which mean they seldom if ever
have a seizure. As you rightly say it would be a great shame not to
train somebody who you seem to think has the energy and enthusiasm to
become a bench jeweller. Where there is a will there is a way.

Carol (from sometimes sunny Coventry, UK)

My mom has occasional seizures and always gets a twitching “warning
sign” that it’s coming. That gives her enough time to stop whatever
she’s doing and lie or sit down so she doesn’t hurt herself or anyone
else. Perhaps your applicant has a similar experience and just like
in my family, the others around him can easily learn what to do
calmly when it happens.

I’d vote to give the fellow a chance and let his ability at the
bench make or break his training with you.

I was able to find the following on the internet. I hope
it helps you come to a decision about hiring the young man. He
sounds like a great addition to your team.

This applies to people in the UK only. If you live
outside the UK, then more about epilepsy and employment
where you are will be available from your local epilepsy
organisation. You may be very familiar with the Disability
Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) but may not know that people with
epilepsy, or a history of epilepsy, are covered. This applies even
if they are not currently having seizures or taking medication.
Under the DDA it is illegal to discriminate against disabled people.
Discrimination can occur if: a disabled person is treated less
favourably than someone else; and the treatment is for a reason
relating to the person’s disability; andthis treatment cannot be
justified. As an employer, this means that you must not treat
someone with epilepsy less favourably than another person, unless
you can justify the reason for doing so. The only exception to this
would be if there were health and safety reasons for the less
favourable treatment.

The advice here is very general. For more specific advice, contact
the Epilepsy Helpline, freephone 0808 800 5050

From the Mayo Clinic in the United States:

Treatment Options

The primary treatment options for patients with epilepsy are
medications, surgery and vagus nerve stimulation. The same treatment
does not work for every patient because the type and severity of
epilepsy varies.For many patients, medication taken regularly and as
prescribed will prevent seizures. When medications fail to control
or substantially reduce the frequency of seizures, brain surgery may
be recommended. The ketogenic diet helps some children and adults
with epilepsy. Investigational treatments (treatments being tested in
clinical trials to determine their effectiveness) may be an option
for eligible patients.

Mara Nesbitt-Aldrich

Unfortunately, you will only be able to consult with his physician
with him present or possibly his permission. It is a breach of
privacy otherwise.

As you have said, there are many forms of epilepsy, and most are not
the grand-mal tonic-clonic seizures that come to mind when people
mention the word. I can’t see the original question posted anywhere,
so I don’t know what conversation you have had with him, but I
assume he has discussed his condition with you, and he feels that he
is able to work. I would rather have someone who at least has some
self-awareness about potential limitations and will be looking out
for them, as well as giving you some pointers for looking out for
them, than to work alongside some others who consider going to the
bench stoned or drunk “creative”, while twirling their long hair and
talking on their blue tooth.

There are the anti-discrimination laws (we all know how those work
in practice), but I think you are actually worried about potential
for injury. Also, you are legally able to drive after a certain
period of being seizure-free, so why not work at the bench.