Pregnancy/fertility and the working environment

From Biomedhms
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The employer is responsible for ensuring that pregnant employees are protected against discomfort and injury resulting from the work situation and the working environment. The working environment must not represent any additional risk to pregnancy or fertility beyond the general environmental pollution to which most of us are exposed.

This therefore applies to both men and women.

Risk factors

Factors in the working environment can impair women and men's fertility or affect the foetus through damage to egg and sperm cells before or after fertilisation. Essentially, this means that it is too late to implement measures in the working environment after pregnancy has been proven. A proper working environment must therefore take into account the fact that one has female and male employees who can have children, and that the working environment should not represent an additional risk to pregnancy or fertility beyond the general environmental pollution to which most of us are exposed.

A considerable number of risk influences are relevant:

Chemical substances Carcinogenic substances, medication containing anaesthetics and cytostatics, organic solvents, metals, toxic gasses, lack of oxygen, herbicides/pesticides, rubber and plastic raw materials…
Physical influences Ionising radiation, heavy lifting, work involving prolonged standing, high temperatures, vibration/shaking…
Infections Rubella, toxoplasmosis, hepatitis, HIV…
Other factors Insufficient rest, inconvenient working hours, shift work…

The Norwegian Institute of Occupational Health and Safety recommends that the solvent exposure for pregnant women is kept bellow 1/10 of the administrative norm.

Pregnant women shall not handle so-called KRM-substances (carcinogenic, mutagenic, toxic for reproduction) without a risk assessment.

Risk assessments

It is both necessary and legally required that risk assessments be carried out wherever employees are exposed to potential working environment factors, and that necessary measures are implemented on the basis of such assessments. UoB’s Occupation Health Service can provide assistance in carrying out risk assessments.

  1. Regulations contain provisions regarding the reassignment of employees who are pregnant or breastfeeding (Link Norwegian only)
    • Regulations relating to ionising radiation
    • Regulations relating to reproductive harm and the working environment
    • Regulations relating to work with anaesthetic gases
    • Regulations relating to protection against exposure to chemicals in the work place (Chemicals Regulations)
  2. The department’s own chemicals database or UoB central chemicals database contains data sheets for chemicals at the facility, it can be found through the HSE-Gateway
  3. Professional expertise within your own department or from UoB Occupational Health Service.

Who does what?

  • The employer is responsible for protecting its employees against injuries caused by the working environment, including implementing risk assessments and measures.
  • The employee has the best knowledge of his or her own working environment, and must contribute to clarification. The employee is also obliged to accept other, more suitable work if the employer believes that there is a risk of injury during pregnancy.
  • The Occupational Health Service can assist as professional advisers.
  • Safety delegates and the Working Environment Committee have a duty to ensure that risk assessments and measures are implemented in accordance with the regulations.

What measures can be taken?

  1. Adaptations which ensure that work carried out by fertile women and men do not involve any additional risks beyond general environmental effects.
  2. Adaptations which ensure that pregnant women can carry out their work following minor adjustments (e.g. reduction in the amount of work duties involving standing or lifting).
  3. Offer of alternative, suitable work duties if the pregnant employee is temporarily unable to perform her normal work duties.
  4. Offer of maternity benefit pursuant to the National Insurance Act if the pregnant employee cannot carry out her normal work duties, or when adaptation or reassignment is not possible.

Where relevant, it is also possible to implement corresponding measures in the case of medical treatment for infertility or for planned pregnancy following previous abortions or birth defects in earlier children. Such measures will apply to both female and male employees and will require a doctor’s certificate.

How do you adapt your work in relation to your pregnancy?

The department’s management is intent on ensuring that everyone feels safe in their work.

If you are planning on becoming pregnant, or are pregnant, you should assess your work/experiments. Raise the matter with your manager as soon as possible.

In cooperation with your manager, you should assess whether you should temporarily stop working with any isotopes, cytostatica or other chemicals which can be harmful to the foetus and with which you may feel it is unsafe to work. Perhaps other employees can perform the more hazardous tasks for a while.

If possible, it is important to review your tasks/experiments with your supervisor approx. three months prior to pregnancy. (Sperm cells develop over a period of 2-3 months. The egg cells go through a maturation phase during the last weeks prior to and in connection with ovulation.)

It is important that you study the data sheets for any chemicals you are uncertain about. More information about “Fertility and pregnancy” (Link Norwegian only).


The Labour Inspection Authority’s facts page on “Fertility and pregnancy” (Link Norwegian only) provides good and easy to understand information about risks, assessment of exposure and your rights in relation to your employer and the National Insurance Service.