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Health and Safety of Pregnant Workers

You're about to wrap-up a normal workday when an employee formally notifies you that she is expecting. At first, naturally you congratulate her and extend the normal formalities. After she leaves, however, you panic. You perform regular risk assessments and feel like you know what you're doing when it comes to employee health and safety but somehow protecting pregnant mothers slipped through your radar. Fortunately, if you did your last risk assessment correctly, you've already prepared for the situation, but if not, here are the basics.


Protecting pregnant workers begins before the pregnancy. During your risk assessments, you should be identifying anything in the workplace that can affect fertility or that poses a particular risk to workers of childbearing age so you can properly notify workers in advance and take appropriate action. You should already have identified any potential risks in your last assessment but if this isn't already part of your risk assessment process, it is worth adding it so you are prepared when you need to be and can merely review your assessment instead of starting from the beginning.


Avoid general hazards. In general long hours, night work, stress, noise, toxic substances, radiation, manual handling, and vibration all post a risk to pregnant employees in particular and should be carefully considered while reevaluating your risk assessment. If you see any of these hazards in your workplace you are required by law to either give the employee alternative work which removes this hazard or give her time-off from work with full-pay.


Avoid specific hazards. Hospitals have different hazards than battery factories and are going to require different workplace precautions. In the same way, different women have different needs during their pregnancies that will need to be taken into consideration. If your employee is suffering from morning sickness, it might be in the best interest of both of you to arrange for her to come into work later or agree not to schedule meetings first thing in the morning. Dialoguing with your employee from the very beginning of her pregnancy is important to make sure that you are creating a workplace health and safety plan that will work well for both of you.


Don't forget a rest area. Pregnant workers should be provided with a rest space, preferably near the restrooms, for breaks. Additionally, you should be expecting these breaks to occur more often as well. The rest area is part of dealing with the requirement to minimise stress on your pregnant worker which is one of the biggest health risks in the workplace (for those who are pregnant as well as for those who are not!).


Dealing with doctors. It is required you give your workers paid leave to receive care leading up to the birth so be prepared to adjust your workweek when necessary. You have the right to proof of the appointments but your employee isn't required to submit it unless asked. Doctors and midwifes may provide notes relating to the needs of specific employees which you will have to adhere to so be prepared to adjust your plan to accommodate those needs. Once again, if you can't follow the doctor's orders, you'll need to give your employees paid leave so you don't violate their health and safety rights.



Conclusion

Although pregnancy can be disruptive, women in the modern era have repeatedly proven that it doesn't have to be. Whether you look at actress Amy Poehler who worked the day she delivered or tech executive Sheryl Sandberg who pumped breast milk during business calls, women today seem to be interested in finding ways to work with their employers to create an environment that works during and after pregnancy. Being prepared for pregnant workers isn't a matter of creating a whole new plan but merely a matter of caring for the health and safety of your pregnant employees the same way you would care for any other employee. If you are aware of the specific hazards of your workplace environment then knowing how to accommodate for the safety of pregnant workers should be a fairly simple procedure. If you can stay flexible and minimise the stress risks in your workplace, you can go a long way toward helping your employee have the best possible pregnancy she can have.




Selected Courses

Please see below for a selection of health and safety courses and qualifications which you may be interested in:

NEBOSH National Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety

The NEBOSH National Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety is the flagship NEBOSH qualification, and is the first UK vocational qualification to be developed specifically for health and safety professionals.

The NEBOSH National Diploma provides the core health and safety knowledge (transferable across industry, commerce and the public sector) which, combined with understanding and appropriate application, underpins the competent performance of an occupational health and safety practitioner.

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NEBOSH National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety

The NEBOSH General Certificate is one of the most popular and widely-held health and safety qualifications in the UK. It is intended to be taken by managers, supervisors and any other employees who require an understanding of general health and safety issues.

The NEBOSH General Certificate covers the main legal requirements for health and safety in the UK, along with the identification and control of workplace hazards, and the practical application of this knowledge. The general content of the NEBOSH General Certificate syllabus means it is suitable and relevant for those working in virtually any industry, and is often used as a solid foundation for those going on to further study and specialising in a particular area such as construction site health and safety or fire safety.

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IOSH Managing Safely Course

The IOSH Managing Safely course is designed for managers and supervisors of organisations in virtually all industry sectors, in order to give them all they need to know to effectively manage health and safety in the workplace.

Recently updated, the new high impact programme covers key health and safety issues, and includes references to international case studies.

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CITB Site Management SMSTS Course

The Site Management Safety Training Scheme (SMSTS) is one of the most popular health and safety training courses, and is intended for construction site managers, project managers and senior supervisors, as well as proprietors of smaller companies.

Client-based personnel would also benefit from attending the SMSTS course.

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CITB Health and Safety Awareness Course

This course is for those who have entered, or are about to enter, the construction and civil engineering industry as a member of the workforce to help them understand the potential hazards that they face at work on site. It aims to provide a practical summary of health and safety, welfare and environmental health and safety issues.

The course also allows delegates to identify their individual responsibilities for looking after themselves and others, what the employer's duties are and what should be done if they think anyone's health and safety is being put at risk.

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