Physical and Shift Work in Pregnancy: Occupational aspects of management 2009

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The purpose of this national guideline is to enable consistent evidence-based advice to be given in relation to pregnant women who are exposed to hazards at work. The document is focused on a number of specific hazards, namely lifting/manual handling and heavy physical work, prolonged standing, long working hours and shift work (including night shifts). Recommendations have been made for employers to reduce exposure to lifting, heavy physical work and prolonged standing for pregnant employees. None of the risks were sufficiently strong to justify mandatory exclusion of pregnant women from work for any of the exposures that were considered.

The guideline is accompanied by summary leaflets for employers, employees and health care professionals.

Key recommendations

  • Pregnant workers should be informed that evidence suggests that heavy physical work carries no more than a moderate risk of low birth weight/IUGR/SGA, but there is only limited and inconsistent evidence of risk for preterm birth and pre-eclampsia.
  • Employers should reduce very heavy physical activities for pregnant workers where possible, particularly in late pregnancy.
  • However, if a pregnant worker who has been informed of the possible risks wishes to continue then there are insufficient grounds upon which to impose restrictions against her will.