Pregnancy and work

February 2019

Background

Monash University is committed to providing staff and students with a healthy and safe environment for work and study. The University recognises that for those who are pregnant or breast-feeding, precautions in addition to normal safe work procedures and practices may be required. This information sheet provides a summary of potential areas of concern for those who are considering pregnancy, who are pregnant or who are breast-feeding.

The expectant and new parent kit has been developed to assist and support in balancing work, life and family responsibilities. Detailed information can be found in Expectant and New Parent Kit.

Working with chemicals

Inhalation is the most common route of chemical exposure in the typical working environment. At Monash University, it is a requirement to use safe work practices and facilities such as fume cupboards when working with chemicals. Other routes of exposure include ingestion, injection, and skin and mucosal absorption.

Exposure to chemicals at levels below recognised exposure limits should not present a risk to you or your unborn child during pregnancy or whilst breast-feeding.  However, once you know you are pregnant, you are encouraged to advise your supervisor and consult the Occupational Health Nurse Consultants as soon as possible.

Further information can be found in "Protecting Unborn and Breast-Fed Children from the Effect of Maternal Exposure to Chemicals, Biologicals, Animals and Radiation Procedure".

Working with animals

If you work with animals, you may have an increased risk of acquiring infections from animals. While maintaining safe work practices can reduce the risk of infection, special care must be taken to prevent infections that could have serious effects on foetal development. For example, cats may harbour Toxoplasma gondii while pregnant sheep may carry Chlamydia psittaci. If you work with cats or sheep, or with any animal which you feel may adversely affect your pregnancy, you should seek immediate advice from your treating doctor.

Working with ionizing radiation

Levels of exposure to ionizing radiation that do not harm a pregnant person may harm the developing foetus, particularly up to 25 weeks gestation. As many pregnant persons can be uncertain of their conception during the early weeks of pregnancy, special consideration must be given to the use of ionising radiation. It is very important for you and your foetus that you notify your Supervisor, your Radiation Safety Officer (RSO) or the Radiation Protection Officer (RPO) at Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) as soon as possible. This will ensure that your work is assessed to determine whether modifications need to be made to reduce radiation exposure.

If your work includes using ionizing radiation and you become pregnant, you have a choice to either continue working with ionising radiation or take on other tasks. OHS can undertake an assessment and define the actions that must be taken to ensure that the risk to you and your foetus is as low as possible. This will include a change in your personal monitoring (TLD badge) to a monthly changeover.

Further information can be found in "Protecting Unborn and Breast-Fed Children from the Effect of Maternal Exposure to Chemicals, Biologicals, Animals and Radiation Procedure".

Working with non-ionising radiation

If you work with non-ionising radiation and you are pregnant, or planning to become pregnant, then you should seek advice from the university's Radiation Protection Officer or your treating doctor.

Immunisations

Employees in certain work groups are advised to have vaccinations to protect against infections such as hepatitis B, hepatitis A, meningococcal meningitis, typhoid and Q fever. If you are considering becoming pregnant, you should speak with your doctor about the kind of work you do and your immunisation status. Ideally, you should have all vaccinations you require for your work environment prior to becoming pregnant.

Most vaccinations should not be given during pregnancy but some are regarded as safe while breast-feeding. If you have any concerns about immunisations that may be required for your work, you should seek advice straight away.

Manual handling

While physical activity and maintaining fitness is beneficial during pregnancy, excessive physical work or heavy lifting may pose a risk especially towards the end of pregnancy. If your work involves manual handling, prolonged standing, repetitive lifting or maintaining awkward postures, then you should seek advice from your treating doctor.  It is important that all staff practice safe lifting techniques.  This should be addressed through area induction and further manual handling training as necessary. Your local Safety Officer/Supervisor should be able to advise further.  In some cases (e.g. where heavy work duties are undertaken) a review of tasks is required to identify potential manual handling hazards which can then be addressed.

Ergonomics

Adoption of a good posture and comfortable position may vary throughout your pregnancy as your shape and weight changes.  General ergonomic principles as per Ergonomics Package should apply throughout your pregnancy.  The set-up of your workstation chair, desk, screen, keyboard and mouse may need modification or adjustment during this time and early discussion with your Supervisor is recommended.

Your role during pregnancy

  • Speak with your treating doctor prior to becoming pregnant about the kind of work you do and your concerns.
  • Notify your Supervisor, Safety Officer, Biosafety Officer or Radiation Safety Officer (RSO) as soon as possible about your pregnancy, so that an immediate assessment and appropriate modifications can be made to your work to minimise risks to your pregnancy. You can request that the information about your pregnancy be kept confidential.
  • Contact the Occupational Health Nurse Consultants and Occupational Physician for confidential medical advice and support. They will work with you to assess the nature of your work and the risks involved, provide information about your areas of concern and help you to continue working safely during and after pregnancy.

Further information

Contact Occupational Health and Safety on: