Health & Safety Update - Apr 2012
Although many health and safety issues affect everyone, women, especially when pregnant, are more susceptible, for physiological reasons, to certain hazards than men. It is essential that health and safety therefore should be gender sensitive. This month we look at Health & Safety for new and expectant mothers.
New & Expectant Mothers
Pregnant women, mothers who are breastfeeding, who have given birth in the last six months and women who have miscarried after 24 weeks of pregnancy are covered by specific health and safety requirements, in addition to the general requirements applicable to everyone.
When notified that a woman is pregnant, and where the work she carries out may harm her or her baby, her employer must:
- (a) assess the risks to her health and safety when carrying out her work
- (b) seek to eliminate or reduce those risks.
If a particular risk cannot be eliminated, suitable alternative working arrangements (e.g. transfer to another role, removal of the risky parts of her job etc.) must be considered. If this is not possible, and as a last resort, the woman must be suspended on her normal pay for as long as necessary.
The risk assessment must be reviewed throughout the pregnancy, as the possibility of harm to the foetus will vary at different stages and must also be reviewed following return to work.
Here are some common risks pregnant women may encounter at work:
- Manual handling and bending hazards, as pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to back injury.
- Some infectious diseases, if contracted by a pregnant woman, can pose a danger to the unborn baby. These include rubella, chickenpox and several less common diseases associated with particular jobs, eg. animal handling.
- Display screen equipment has, in the past been linked to problems during pregnancy – there is no evidence of any direct link, but the need to adopt good posture and take regular breaks from screen work is especially important for pregnant women.
- Providing comfortable and quiet rest facilities where expectant mothers can lie down and rest occasionally will often make a huge difference to their work performance and may be instrumental in improving attendance at work during pregnancy.
- Violence at work is bad enough at any time, but when a pregnant woman is the victim, the consequences can be horrendous. Ensure workers who deal with the public are properly protected and that support from less vulnerable colleagues is available.
Through our partners, Ellis Whittam, Ceridian provides a range of Health & Safety advice as part of its Small Business HR Service. For more information call us on 0800 0482 737.