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Employsure’s guide to pregnancy precautions.

When an employee shares the special news that they are pregnant it can sometimes put an employer into a state of panic. Here are some steps to take when you have been notified that an employee is pregnant.

Firstly, remember that it is your responsibility to provide a workplace that is free from health and safety risks for all your employees (as far as reasonably practicable), so you will need to consider a number of possible issues and potentially re-evaluate these for a pregnancy. This will depend on the type of workplace, the type of work the employee performs and their exposure to hazards at work.

Secondly, remember to talk to your employee. You should aim to identify any risks and work out suitable solutions together. Everybody is different and hence, may have specific physical and/or mental health concerns that need to be addressed.

A few keys items you will need to consider is whether your workplace presents hazards such as exposure to chemicals, animals, heavy lifting or perhaps if the tasks currently performed will become more difficult in the latter stages of pregnancy. The hormonal effects of pregnancy can be quite severe for some people and this too may require consideration.

Hazards to be aware of.

Chemicals. There are a number of chemicals that are harmful to an unborn baby. Ensure you are familiar with the chemicals being used at your workplace and what possible effects they may have on the employee. You can refer to a Chemical Register and relevant SDS (safety data sheet) for this information.

Animals. Persons handling animals can be at high risk during pregnancy. Pets and other animals may carry diseases, parasites or infection that are harmful. If handling animals, there is also the possibility of injury. Ensure you understand the risks associated to the animals which your workers come into contact with. In some instances this may mean you need to restrict the duties of your employee or take extra precautions to prevent infection, contamination, injury or miscarriage.

Heavy lifting. There is risk of back strain and other physical injury when lifting. Each of us have our own limitations and abilities so consideration should be given to the person, their specific capabilities and what they are comfortable lifting during pregnancy. Provide assistance, either human or mechanical, where appropriate. An alternative is to change the layout or way the task is performed.

Elevated stress and fatigue during pregnancy are also common. Discuss any issues with your employee as solutions may be as simple as providing extra breaks of shorter periods, or modifying their duties to reduce risk factors.

Keep in mind that you cannot discriminate against a person because they are pregnant.

It is a legal requirement to identify hazards, assess the associated risk and implement appropriate controls to eliminate or reduce those risks. Every workplace is different and not all hazards to pregnancy have been addressed here. Ensure you have identified those risks that are specific to pregnancy and your workplace prior to, or when you have a pregnant employee, and ensure you consult with them regarding controls.

As the leading workplace relations specialist, Employsure can assist with any concerns surrounding the health and safety of your business. Our specialist consultant can review your workplace, offering solutions and documentation to set the solid foundations for success. Call us today on 0800 675 700.

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