How to stay safe at work throughout your pregnancy

Posted on
9/1/2023
in

It’s no secret that pregnancy brings a lot of physical and emotional changes. As a result, it’s important to be aware of your health during this time, particularly at work. If you work with display screen equipment (DSE), there are some extra measures you can take to ensure both you and your baby are as safe, healthy, and comfortable as possible. 

Why might pregnancy change the way you work at a desk?

From needing additional desk space to accommodate your bump to managing swollen ankles, pregnancy can impact the way you work at a desk more than you might think. 

Whether you’re in your first trimester or you’re nearing maternity leave, it’s essential that you adjust your workstation to ensure you’re maintaining a good posture and supporting your lower back.

Some common changes that can impact how you work include:

  • Fatigue: If you experience fatigue during your pregnancy, you may find it challenging to stay focused and require more breaks.
  • Headaches: Some people suffer from headaches during their pregnancy, which can be exacerbated by looking at a screen for too long.
  • Space: As your baby grows, you may find you need to adjust the space between your chair and desk to make room for your bump.
  • Back pain: Pregnancy can also cause back pain, which can make it difficult to sit in a chair for long periods of time.
  • Swelling: If you have swollen ankles or feet, you may find sitting at a desk for a long time uncomfortable and could benefit from a footrest.
  • Toilet access: As you may need to go to the toilet more frequently while pregnant, it’s important that you can easily access bathroom facilities.
  • Emotional impacts: Pregnancy can affect your hormones and emotional state, which can impact your focus levels.

Working while pregnant: what are your rights?

It’s important to remember that managing your health and safety at work during pregnancy is not solely your responsibility. Your employer has to follow specific guidelines to ensure you have everything you need to work comfortably and safely. 

For example, you must be allowed time off for antenatal care (including medical appointments and parenting classes) and must be granted maternity leave.

Within the workplace, your employer must also carry out a full risk assessment for pregnant workers and new mothers.

The HSE Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 also stipulate that  employers must provide a suitable place for pregnant and breastfeeding workers to rest.

DSE risk assessments for pregnant employees

While all workplaces have a legal obligation to carry out risk assessments for pregnant workers, it can be particularly important if you use display screen equipment.

Your employer must first identify any potential hazards or risks associated with using DSE during your pregnancy. This includes assessing the level of physical activity, stress levels, and posture. It’s also vital to check that all of your equipment is up-to-date and meets current safety standards.

A pregnant worker DSE assessment can identify any changes that need to be made to your desk or workstation so you can work as safely as possible. This may include adjusting your desk height, changing your office chair, or setting up a footrest, for example.

Top tips for working safely while pregnant

Although your employer is responsible for helping you get the workstation set-up you need, there are some actions you can take to keep yourself comfortable and healthy during your pregnancy.

Bear in mind that many of these are points of good practice for any DSE workers, so you can continue to apply them even after you’ve had your baby!

  1. Take frequent breaks

Working with DSE for long periods of time can be tiring, especially during pregnancy. It's important to take regular breaks to rest your eyes and stretch your body. You may need more breaks than usual, so don’t be afraid to take them.

  1. Practice good posture

Maintaining a good posture while using DSE can help reduce the risk of developing musculoskeletal problems. Make sure your chair is adjusted so that your feet are flat on the floor and your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle. Your desk should be at a comfortable height, and your monitor should be at a distance that allows you to read text without straining your eyes.

  1. Adjust your DSE setup

 Make sure the display screen equipment is comfortable for you to use. This may involve adjusting the height and angle of your monitor or using a footrest or wrist rest.

  1. Take care of your eyes

Staring at a screen for long periods of time can be hard on your eyes. To reduce eye strain, try to blink frequently and take breaks to look at something at a distance.

  1. Stay hydrated

Drinking plenty of water throughout the day can help keep you hydrated and reduce fatigue. Keep a water bottle on your desk, so you have easy access to it.

  1. Speak to a healthcare professional 

If you have a complicated pregnancy or you’re concerned about the impact of working conditions, it may be worth speaking to your midwife or doctor.  You can discuss any concerns you have with them, and they might offer advice specific to your job role. Your midwife might, for example, suggest some stretches and exercises that can reduce backache or strain while at your desk.

DSE assessments for pregnant workers from Workhappy

Pregnancy is an exciting time, but it can also feel overwhelming at times. All workplaces should offer physical and psychological support for pregnant employees. One of the best ways to help an expectant worker is to carry out a DSE assessment

At Workhappy, we provide a range of DSE assessments to suit different employee needs. Our trained experts can conduct a specific pregnant worker DSE assessment to ensure your team members can work safely and comfortably throughout their pregnancy — whether they’re office-based or remote. To learn more, get in touch with the Workhappy team today.