An alarming article appeared in a recent issue of the Health and Safety Review (HSR) magazine noting the likely cause of the loss of a baby by miscarriage as being directly related to the mother’s workplace environment and workplace activities. At a practiced level, workplace pregnancy risk assessments are something we are all familiar with recording and noting each case as individual and specific. In the workplace there is a huge responsibility placed on the employer not only to care for the mother but to care for the unborn child also. Apart from the legal requirement stipulated in both the Health and Safety and Maternal Acts, a huge moral obligation is also at play here.

What is even more concerning about this particular case study is the employers (and officers) blasé attitude to the entire issue. A risk assessment was requested by the pregnant employee once she announced her pregnancy to her direct line supervisor and in direct response, the employee was told by her supervisor:

“To leave it with me”

Upon reading the facts of the case, this is and was completely unacceptable due to the heavy lifting and exposure to chemical adhesives the employee encountered on a daily basis. Sometime later, the employee again noted her concerns about her exposure to the chemical adhesives to which she was told:

“Not to worry about the adhesives”

An EHS representative within in the organisation was notified of the pregnancy on the 30th January despite the supervisor being notified of the employee’s condition on 21st of the same month. A reply was then sent by the EHS representative to the supervisor on the 04th February noting only general hazards on site. No actual risk assessment was actioned. Noted throughout the case was the fact that a verbal risk assessment was actioned by the company but no written records of this activity were kept. In fact, no documented or written evidence was presented to the court on behalf of the employer throughout this case as the entire IT system crashed loosing all relevant and presentable records.

On the 12th February the employee in question called in sick and on the 14th February lost her baby in hospital. Expert medical statements noted:

“The miscarriage was likely to have resulted from exposure to the work environment”

All employers must be aware of the importance of carrying out Pregnancy Risk Assessments in the workplace and doing so promptly and competently.

* Health and Safety Review June 2015, pg.19

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