How do I Conduct a Risk Assessment for Pregnant Workers?

A risk assessment is a health and safety obligation for UK employers to ensure their workplace is a safe area to work. Once an employee informs an employer that they are pregnant, a risk assessment must be conducted again to ensure that there are no additional hazards present which could affect the pregnant employee.

It is a legal obligation for employers to regularly review general workplace risks, and therefore it is essential to analyse the risks present in the workplace which could harm pregnant workers. Pregnant employees can be affected by both physical and emotional risks in the workplace. It is an employer’s responsibility to ensure pregnant employees can continue to work safely and comfortably. If an employer does not ensure pregnant employees can work safely, they will be breaching their health and safety responsibilities in the workplace. Therefore, knowing how to conduct a risk assessment for pregnant workers is of the utmost importance.

An employer’s responsibility to conduct a risk assessment is established under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. If an employer does not conduct a general risk assessment in the workplace, they are effectively breaching UK health and safety law.

The UK Health and Safety Executive have published advisable steps for organisations to follow when conducting their risk assessments.

Step 1: General Risk Assessment

  • Identify hazards in the workplace, including physical agents, biological agents and chemical agents.
  • Decide whether a control measure can be implemented to protect employees from this risk.
  • Record all of the workplace’s hazards, risks and control measures. This will ensure that if your organisation is investigated, you can prove that a risk assessment has been carried out. Moreover, it will make revising your risk assessment far easier if you have a record of your last one.
  • This risk assessment must be revised thoroughly to ensure any new risks which arise are accounted for.

Step 2: Risk Assessment for New and Expectant Mothers

  • Ensure that pregnant employees inform you of their pregnancy in writing.
  • Identify risks in the workplace. Are there any substantial risks which primarily affect new and expectant mothers?
  • If so, implement appropriate control measures to protect pregnant employees from this risk.
  • If the working conditions or job role of a pregnant employee can’t be changed, is there suitable alternative work that the employee could do instead to reduce their exposure to risk? This alternative job role must have the same terms and conditions as the previous job role.
  • If suitable alternative work cannot be found, the employee must be suspended on fully paid leave for a necessary amount of time to protect their health and safety.
  • This risk assessment must be revised thoroughly to ensure any new risks which arise are accounted for.
  • Regular discussions between the employer and pregnant employees must take place to ensure all health and safety procedures are working as they should.

Conducting risk assessments to ensure that new and expectant mothers are safe is of the utmost importance. Amazon, a multinational technology firm, were accused in May 2019 of failing to protect pregnant workers. An employee, represented by the GMB Union, reported that Amazon had not protected them whilst pregnant, as they told her that she could not transfer departments and must continue picking, which is physically strenuous for a pregnant woman. Amazon responded to the allegations by stating that they accommodate for their employees’ “medical needs, including pregnancy-related needs”.

Amazon have since defended their protection of pregnant workers and confirmed that they conduct thorough risk assessments for pregnant workers. This case drew a lot of attention from the media because conducting risk assessments in the workplace is taken very seriously.

Therefore, it is important to know how to conduct a general risk assessment for the workplace, as well as a risk assessment for pregnant employees.

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