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Risk Assessment

Viimati uuendatud: 23.02.2017

Most women work during the pregnancy and many return while still breastfeeding. Overall, it may not harm the health of the future mother nor that of the child. However, workplaces exist where chemicals or other dangers could influence the woman’s ability to have healthy children, or which harm the health of the pregnant woman and that of the child.

Pregnancy brings along great physiologic and psychologic changes in a woman’s body. The hormonal balance of a woman is very sensitive and any interference could cause complications that could lead to miscarriage. Ionizing radiation, chemicals, smoking, certain viruses and alcohol – this is a list of samples that might harm the reproductive health.

European Council directive 92/85/EC addresses both mental or physical illnesses, and a health damage, as health disorders of women; as well as possible damaging effects on pregnancy, the foetus, newborn, and the woman who has recently given birth.

According to the §1 section 1 of the Regulation “Occupational Health and Safety Requirements for Work of Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women” by the Government of the Republic, the employer is obliged to fulfil the occupational health and safety requirements. After the woman has presented a doctor’s certificate attesting their situation, the employer must determine the working conditions that are hazardous to their health. The problem is that during the early days of the pregnancy (30-45 days), the employee might not be aware of their pregnancy and could thus, unknowingly, harm the health of themselves and their foetus.

According to §13 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the employer is obliged to conduct the working environment risk analysis and assess health risks, and inform the employees about existing risk factors and their possible harmful health effect. Raising the awareness of employees regarding safe working and health protection, systematic internal working environment audit, and risk management create a precondition to avoid the health damage of all employees, including potential mothers.

Even if the risk assessment shows that the health damage resulting from a workplace risk factor is highly unlikely, the employer should still warn the female employee about it. The employee should also explain what will be done to provide additional protection to the pregnant or breastfeeding women, and the women who have recently given birth.

The occupational safety and healthcare framework directive 89/391/EEC by the European Council greatly emphasises the prevention of health damage. Therefore, risk assessment is not a one-time activity in a company, but a basis for a systematic internal audit and supervision, especially important in the case of pregnant employees. Different risks may influence the woman and the foetus in the different stages of the pregnancy, and harm the mother and child also after the birth. Individual approach to the working conditions of the endangered pregnant or breastfeeding women, and the women who have recently given birth, is important. Risk assessment must be repeated if the working conditions, instruments, or used chemicals have been changed.

The doctor’s advice to the woman and suggestions to the employer – if necessary, a written resolution to change the working conditions or work organization of the female employee – should emanate from the specific working environment. Data concerning the woman’s health is strictly confidential. The employer may not disclose the woman’s pregnancy, if the latter does not consent.

Even though the hazards might not change, the risk factor could influence the foetus differently in the different stages of pregnancy, and the breastfeeding period. Some chemical compounds (like lead, organic solvents, pesticides, antimony compounds) pass the woman’s organism and penetrate into breastmilk, thus harming the child as well.

If necessary, the employer must implement the following measures:

  • Temporarily relieving the working conditions, transferring the female employee to an easier or alternative work.
  • Transfer to a daily or evening shift, changing work organization (e.g. shortening the workday and enabling the required resting breaks).

Risk perception is a rather complex and specific task, where the employees’ knowledge and participation play a great role. In the company, the main emphasis should be on the activities related to preventing the harmful effects on all employees to decrease the effect of hazard factors damaging the reproductive organs of both women and men.

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