H&S Risk Assessments for New and Expectant Mothers at Work

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H&S Risk Assessments for New and Expectant Mothers in The Workplace

Managers who are responsible for women of childbearing age and new and expectant mothers at work must understand their potential vulnerabilities and the types of risks that they are exposed to in order to ensure they are adequately informed and trained to complete their work tasks safely.

This article covers who new and expectant mothers at work are, the main risks and types of risk assessments required, and also measures that should be considered.

Health And Safety Risk Assessments: The Law

By law, employers must have a general health and safety risk assessment for all employees. This includes considering specific risks for employees of childbearing age, for example, those who could become pregnant, pregnant women, and new mothers.

Who Are New and Expectant Mothers at Work?

New and expectant mothers at work are employees who are pregnant, have given birth within the previous six months to a living child or, after 24 weeks of pregnancy, a stillborn child, or are breastfeeding. When planning for and conducting NEM’s Health and Safety Risk Assessments, a two-stage approach to risk assessment for NEMs should typically be considered.

1) General Risk Assessments

When general risk assessments at work are being completed, there must be consideration of the risks to women of childbearing age, including the potential for new and expectant mothers at work to protect against undetected and known pregnancies. The assessment must consider physical, biological, and chemical agents, working conditions, and processes.

Common risks from working conditions and processes might include:

  • Lifting or carrying heavy loads
  • Standing or sitting for long lengths of time
  • Exposure to infectious diseases
  • Exposure to lead
  • Work-related stress
  • Workstations and posture (ergonomics)
  • Exposure to radioactive material
  • Threat of violence
  • Long working hours
  • Excessively noisy workplaces.

Where general risk assessments identify a specific risk to new and expectant mothers at work and/or their children, female employees of childbearing age must be informed and provided with an explanation of the controls that are in place to ensure that they are not exposed to risks that could cause them or their child harm if they became pregnant or were breastfeeding. These risks will vary depending on health and at different stages of the pregnancy.

2) Individual Risk Assessments

When the NEM has formally notified the employer of their NEM status, an individual risk assessment must be performed with their input. A competent person must complete individual risk assessments as soon as reasonably practicable after having been informed of the pregnancy.

The NEM must be invited to engage in and contribute to the individual risk assessment. The specific risk assessment must address any medical advice in relation to the NEM’s health and pregnancy provided by a qualified medical professional.

The assessment must identify specific risks to the NEM’s health and safety or that of their child. The assessment must take into account the changing nature of pregnancy and the post-natal period. The risks identified for NEMs will vary during the different stages of pregnancy.

The assessment must be regularly monitored and reviewed to address possible problems and risks that may occur at different stages of pregnancy.

As a minimum, documented reviews must take place at the following intervals: between 14 and 26 weeks, after 27 weeks, and upon return to work. They may be more frequent if required. Good practice reviews must take place (not necessarily documented): Monthly until 32 weeks, weekly at 32–36 weeks; weekly from 36 weeks. Such reviews could be included in the content of other suitable meetings, for example, routine one-on-ones.

If any risks are identified, new and expectant mothers at work must be informed and, with the involvement of the NEM, agree to the proposals for the removal, reduction, or control of the risks.

3) Control Measures That Should Be Considered

Information about the arrangements for the management of risks in relation to new and expectant mothers at work must be freely accessible to all employees and contractors.

Where the specific risk assessment has identified stress as a possible risk, the employer must, where possible, remove the risk. Where removing the risk is not possible, the level of risk must be reduced as much as it practically can.

Control measures must be applied in order of preference:

  • Temporarily adjust working conditions and/or hours of work; agree on the timing and frequency of rest breaks. Shift working is acceptable unless there is a specific work risk and a qualified medical practitioner has provided a medical certificate or statement recommending that the NEM not work nights or shifts.
  • Consider suitable alternative work if available (normally at the same rate of pay, subject to Human Resources (HR) policies).
  • Suspension from work on paid leave (subject to HR policies) for as long as necessary to protect your health and safety and/or that of your child.

New and expectant mothers at work are entitled to time off with pay to keep appointments for antenatal care made on the advice of a qualified medical practitioner. Following the first appointment, the NEM must provide, if requested, documentary evidence showing that an appointment has been made.

New and expectant mothers must be provided with suitable rest facilities, which must be located near toilets, and where necessary (i.e., requested by a doctor or midwife), should provide appropriate facilities for the new or expectant mother to lie down.

An NEM must take compulsory maternity leave for the first two weeks following childbirth. It is for the NEM to decide, in discussion with the employer, the anticipated date of return.

On returning to work, the NEM must provide the employer with written notification of the continuation of breastfeeding and, if possible, inform the employer before returning. It is for the NEM to decide how long to breastfeed.

The individual risk assessment must be updated, and appropriate risk controls and arrangements must be considered, including the provision of a private, healthy, and safe environment for nursing mothers to express and store milk.

Where, after returning to work, breastfeeding is continued, other risks must be considered, where appropriate, including working with or being exposed to organic mercury, radioactive materials, and exposure to lead.

Employer Takeaway:

To ensure the well-being of new and expectant mothers at work, a risk assessment must be conducted to identify potential risks they may be exposed to. With this information, managers can take measures to protect them from harm. Keeping an open line of communication with these mothers is also essential to addressing any concerns they may have.

Need Advice?

If you require health and safety support, Avensure health and safety experts are available to assist you. Our team can help identify potential hazards and establish measures to prevent them.

We can also conduct risk assessments with you and provide support for accident or incident investigations if needed. Contact us today by clicking here: Avensure Contact!

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