HSE revised guidance on protecting pregnant workers and new mothers
Health & Safety
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have revised their guidance on risk assessments for pregnant workers and new mothers, stating that employers ‘must’ carry out an individual risk assessment, while continuing to assess risks to women of childbearing age in a general workplace risk assessment. Previous guidance did not stipulate that individual assessments needed to be done.
A pregnant worker and new mother means someone who:
Has given birth in the last 6 months
Is currently breastfeeding
When a worker has informed their employer that they are pregnant or a new mother, the HSE guides employers to do the assessment by:
Reviewing their existing general risk management and controls for pregnant workers and new mothers.
Talking to workers to see if there are any conditions or circumstances with their pregnancy that could affect their work.
Discussing any concerns about how their work could affect their pregnancy.
Consulting with their safety representative or trade union if they have one.
Taking account of any medical recommendations provided by their doctor or midwife.
Reviewing assessments as pregnancy progresses or where there are changes.
Once you have completed the individual risk assessment, record your findings and share these with your worker and their safety representative if they have one.
As pregnancies progress, changes might impact a worker’s dexterity, speed of movement and reach. Other aspects of work to consider include:
Posture, including sitting and standing and access to and use of workstations.
Manual handling of loads.
Lone working and how emergencies can be managed.
The type of work done and its risks, such as work at height, stress, or workplace temperatures.
Fire and evacuations, particularly if movement and use of stairs is impacted.
Travel, including flying and early starts and late finishes.
Infectious diseases, such as Chickenpox and Rubella, both of which can affect babies when they are either born or in the womb.
Exposure to hazardous substances, such as lead, noise, vibration, pesticides.
Night work, long hours, and shift work.
Employers should also consider the above issues when carrying out or reviewing assessments for workers who inform them that they have given birth in the last 6 months or are breastfeeding.
Employers who employ gig-economy, agency or temporary workers have responsibilities under law to protect pregnant workers and new mothers. Other responsibilities such as allowing more frequent rest breaks, providing a suitable place to rest which is suitable for expressing milk, and a place to store milk remain unchanged.
If you need any advice on risk assessments for expectant mothers get in touch.