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Revealed: Your obligations if you employ pregnant employees in an environment of lead fume exposure

by , 20 January 2014
You must implement very strict measures if any of your employees, particularly pregnant women, are exposed to lead fumes. How do you do this? Make sure you're taking these steps if you employ pregnant employees in an environment exposing them to lead fumes.

Women's health is divided into two categories:

  1. Occupational exposure risks unique to females, for example, exposure to lead. These risks relate to the fertility, pregnancy and breastfeeding roles of the females.
  2. Perceived occupational health and safety risks to females. These risks relate to the traditional perception that tasks requiring physical strength or stamina are more suited to men than women.

For the purposes of this article, we'll focus on occupational exposure risks unique to females, more specifically, lead exposure.

The Health & Safety Advisor says if you employ fertile and pregnant employees in an environment of lead fume exposure, you have to adhere to Lead Regulations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

If you employ pregnant employees in an environment of lead fume exposure make sure you adhere to the following:

Obligation#1: Don't allow female employees to work in an environment which exposes them to lead in excess of the prescribed occupational exposure limits (OELs).

The OEL for inorganic lead in a work environment is 0.15 mg/m3, while the OEL for tetra alkyl lead is 0.1 mg/m3.

Obligation #2: You must remove any female employee who's capable of procreation (this is all women except post-menopausal women, and women who've undergone a hysterectomy) if she carries out work that exposes her to lead when her blood lead concentration exceeds 40 pg/100 ml or her urinary lead concentration exceeds 75 pg/l, or if she falls pregnant.

You must measure exposure levels, with the aid of an authorised lead inspection authority.

Your employee also has an obligation if she works in a lead environment.

She must notify your occupational health practitioner as soon as she knows she's pregnant.

If she doesn't tell you she's pregnant, and she becomes exposed to lead, you must be able to show that you've informed her of the dangers of failing to disclose her pregnancy.

Include this in her employment contract and maintain frequent proof of training of the dangers of lead exposure.

Now that you know your obligations, make sure you adhere to them if you have employees that work in a lead environment.

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