When should you do a pregnancy risk assessment?

Posted on June 17, 2022
Posted by Marion Kennedy

Document ImageAll potential hazards to pregnant women and new mothers in the workplace should be included in a pregnancy risk assessment, along with how those risks will be controlled or removed. As explained in this blog, our template Pregnancy and maternity risk assessment includes comprehensive examples of the most common health and safety risks to new or expectant mothers, as well as suggestions for controlling or removing those risks. 

As set out in our last blog, you must consider the risks to women of child-bearing age in your workplace as part of your general health and safety risk assessment, as well as carry out an individual risk assessment for anyone who notifies you in writing that they are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have given birth in the last six months. Failing to carry out a proper risk assessment and follow up on risks identified could not only put your staff member’s health and safety at risk but could also result in a claim against you for pregnancy and maternity discrimination. 

Conducting a risk assessment

To conduct a risk assessment for new or expectant mothers, you must:

  1. identify hazards (see examples below);
  2. identify who might be harmed by the hazards;
  3. take all reasonable steps to eliminate or reduce the risks identified;
  4. keep appropriate records; and
  5. review and update your risk assessment regularly.

Carrying out a risk assessment is not simply a ‘box-ticking’ exercise, and you must ensure that you assess risks as appropriate to your particular workplace (and act on your findings). Consult with your staff to check whether they’ve noticed any risks that should be addressed. 

Once you have identified any risks, you must take reasonable action to remove them or adjust your employee’s hours or working conditions to deal with them. In some circumstances it may be necessary to provide alternative work or arrange suspension of a pregnant employee with full pay. See Risks to pregnant women and new mothers for full guidance.


What should be included in a pregnancy risk assessment

Our pregnancy and maternity risk assessment template includes common risks to pregnant women and new mothers and suggests ways you could consider controlling or removing the risks. The actions are not compulsory, and what you need to do will depend on your working environment (eg the risk to pregnant women in offices is clearly likely to be lower than in factories or on building sites). Our general risk assessments also identify hazards to women of child-bearing age in the workplace and assess ways to minimise or remove those hazards. 

Below are some examples of common risks that should usually be included in a pregnancy risk assessment:

Slips and trips 

Pregnant women may experience impaired balance and co-ordination during pregnancy, and could be harmed if they trip over objects or uneven flooring or slip on wet areas. Good housekeeping and regular cleaning is important to minimise the risk of slips and trips, along with other risk mitigation steps such as ensuring cables are tidied away, providing handrails on staircases and encouraging staff to wear appropriate footwear. 

Manual lifting

Avoid asking pregnant women and/or new mothers to lift heavy objects, as they may be at risk of pain, injury and/or potential miscarriage. Consider providing trolleys for heavy objects, and make sure you comply with any medical instructions your staff member has received. Bear in mind that a staff member of child-bearing age may be yet to advise you of their pregnancy, so you should ensure they are kept safe from potential hazards like this. 

Harm from chemicals

Breathing in fumes from chemicals may be particularly dangerous for pregnant or breastfeeding women. Our Pregnancy and maternity risk assessment includes examples of ways to minimise the risks, such as providing PPE, ensuring the workplace is kept well ventilated, and minimising or eliminating the amount of time the woman spends near chemicals. 

Working at height

Falls from a height are especially dangerous for pregnant women, and working at height should be avoided where possible. All staff should be prohibited from standing on chairs or tables, and any equipment used to work at height should be checked regularly. 

Stress and fatigue

New mothers coming back from maternity leave may find it difficult to immediately return to their pre-maternity workload and/or find it difficult to manage their hours around childcare. Pregnant women and new mothers may experience fatigue and/or post-natal depression. Use our template for suggestions of how to manage stress and fatigue, such as ensuring regular catch ups, providing rest areas, and encouraging staff to raise any concerns about their workload. Don’t forget to also apply your risk mitigation measures to remote workers, who may otherwise feel isolated and ‘out of the loop’. 

Workstation set up, sitting or standing for long periods, and posture

Possible harm from incorrect work setups includes back pain, eye issues, and musculoskeletal disorders. Pregnant women can be particularly at risk of such disorders, and/or deep vein thrombosis, given changes in their body shape and posture. You should carry out regular DSE risk assessments, adjust a pregnant women’s workstation to take account of her changing shape, encourage regular breaks, and comply with any advice from your staff member’s doctor. See our Pregnancy and maternity risk assessment for more suggestions of ways to minimise risks. 

Workplace environment 

Lack of ventilation and extreme temperatures can cause fainting and dehydration, and very hot or very cold temperatures are particularly dangerous for pregnant women. Ways to reduce these risks include making sure your workplace’s air conditioning is maintained and used as appropriate, the workplace is appropriately ventilated, and your business’s dress code is suitable for the workplace environment. 

COVID-19 spread 

Although you are no longer explicitly required to consider COVID-19 risks in your risk assessments, it is still good practice to take appropriate risk mitigation steps. For example, ensuring that good hygiene procedures are followed, the workplace is well ventilated, and encouraging staff to stay at home if they are unwell. 

Other risks

Other risks to pregnant women and new mothers include (but aren’t limited to) lone working and dealing with the public, pests and vermin infestations, and passive smoking. These risks are included in our template Pregnancy and maternity risk assessment, along with ways to control the risks. 

You should ensure that you review your risk assessment regularly and keep it up to date throughout your staff member’s pregnancy. It’s good practice to have regular catch ups with your staff member to check whether they have encountered any issues that might create safety risks (eg changes in their workplace activities or any medical conditions). 

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