Can You Work in A Warehouse While Pregnant?
Women traditionally have not been particularly interested in forklift driving or have not stood a chance when competing against male workers wishing to become forklift drivers. However, research shows that there has been a global increase in female forklift drivers which we have published before on a previous blog. As this is the new norm in the warehousing, transportation and construction industry, the majority of women are obviously capable of having children. As such, some of you reading this article, may be wondering ‘can you work in a warehouse pregnant?’. Well within this blog, we are going to tell you:
- Whether it is ok working in a warehouse while pregnant
- The law regarding working in a warehouse while pregnant
- Common workplace hazards
- Working long hours while pregnant
- Final considerations
The Law Regarding Working in A Warehouse While Pregnant
On the one hand, according to delta-net, pregnant employees can continue to work an average of 40 hours a week or the hours that they were working previously. However, they should only continue working these hours if it is safe to do so. As such, employers have the responsibility to ensure that pregnant workers can safely continue to work their specified hours and if they can’t, the employer must initiate appropriate changes. Working long hours while pregnant can be dangerous, and the correct changes must be implemented to accommodate for this.
On the other hand, according to the Government Pregnant employees rights, employees also need to play a role. They must tell their employer about the pregnancy at least 15 weeks before the beginning of the week the baby is due. If this is not possible (because they did not know they were pregnant) the employer must be told as soon as possible.
If you are working in a warehouse while pregnant, your employer has the responsibility to conduct a risk assessment which will assess whether you are fit to work. If the employee’s job description requires standing, sitting for long periods of time, lifting heavy objects, or exposure to radiation or toxic substances, it could affect the baby and their own health. This as well as working long hours while pregnant. Therefore, the employer must make an important decision to decide whether it is safe to continue working.
Common Workplace Hazards That Are Dangerous for a Pregnant Woman’s Health
Women working in warehousing industries are at risk of injuries or developing illnesses when they are pregnant. Some dangers they need to watch out for include:
Chemical disinfectants are primarily used in healthcare settings but large-scale warehouses can sometimes require industrial cleaners to work on the premises. As a result, there could be chemical disinfectant plastered all around the warehouse which could mean a pregnant employee could be prone to harsh chemicals which could be detrimental to the child’s health.
Excessive noise during warehousing operations can cause stress to pregnant employees, which also could change their bodies and damage their developing babies’ growth. Some loud sounds can even pass through the body into the womb, endangering the unborn baby’s hearing. Women working around loud machines and technology are all prone to loud noises and so it is perhaps best advised that they stay in areas that are quieter or better, at home.
Dirt and Pesticides
Let’s face it, working in warehousing environments isn’t exactly the cleanest of environments. Forklift trucks can create tyre/rubber marks on the floor, dust can accumulate and unfortunately, pesticides could potentially arise. Exposure to pesticides could increase a woman’s risk of harming the unborn child’s health.
Too much lifting or bending can increase a woman’s risk of miscarriage or another injury in the workplace. For this reason, working in a warehouse while pregnant is absolutely crucial to monitor. If heavy lifting is required, it is absolutely advised that you ask to swap your duties for the duration you are pregnant.
While secondhand smoke can be dangerous to anyone, pregnant women who are around it can increase their risk of having a baby with a low birth weight. People are allowed to smoke on their break but in a well-ventilated area. If you happen to work in a warehouse with people who are permitted to have smoke breaks it is best to avoid them at all costs if at all possible.
Working at night can change a woman’s circadian rhythms – which is a natural human internal princess that facilitates the sleep-wake cycle and can affect a pregnant woman’s pregnancy hormones. Shift work, which includes working at night and rotating shifts, and long work hours have been linked to miscarriages and preterm births. As such this should be regulated.
For those still reading, you may be curious as to whether a pregnant woman has additional breaks. Well due to the nature of work, women who drive a forklift while pregnant is entitled to more breaks. This is because sickness, fatigue, and certain pregnancy symptoms such as frequent visits to the bathroom can cause fluctuations in concentration levels and thus pose a hazard to others. Employers are also legally required to provide a pregnant woman with somewhere to rest and lie down if necessary.
Overall, the best piece of advice we can give to pregnant forklift operators is to always consult a doctor before operating heavy machinery. They’ll also be able to assist with any documentation for medical advice if needed.
If a pregnant forklift operator is unable to continue with their usual tasks, the employer should consider implementing the following:
- Offer the member of staff alternative work (sitting down if possible)
- Adjust their working conditions or reduce their hours
- Sign the employee off on medical leave to protect them and their baby if the previous suggestions are not applicable
On the whole, it is generally acceptable for women to work in a warehouse environment while pregnant. With the examples of possible risks stated and the potential solutions provided, pregnant women can have peace of mind knowing they are accounted for and protected to ensure they are safe when they work.