Pregnancy and working a physical job
February 1, 2018 1:06 PM   Subscribe

I work a job that can be physically demanding at times, and involves the use of chemicals and other hazards. I'm wondering how to manage this with early pregnancy.

At my job, I sometimes work at height using a boom or scissor lift, I use solvents, other chemicals, take X-rays, and work with some hazardous substances (lead, cadmium, radioactive materials, etc). Not all my work is like this, as I do have a significant amount of computer time as well.

I would prefer to keep a pregnancy quiet at work since I have just started a new role and don't want to have to un-announce in case of miscarriage, but I am not sure if I should disclose early to help me avoid any hazard to the baby. There is a good safety culture here, and I get on well with my boss and other colleagues. I think my boss would be supportive and happy to assign me tasks that have minimal chemical work, and don't require the use of a fall arrest harness. I have some ability to select my own duties, but there would come a point when I'm asked to use a lift and won't be able to. Would it make sense to check in with an OB first about this, or is a first appointment at 8 weeks too late? I would appreciate any advice on navigating this, and on lab/scientific work while pregnant.
posted by sizeable beetle to Health & Fitness (10 answers total)
This is worth a call to the office of the OB you'll be seeing. I'd call today, frankly.
posted by cooker girl at 1:11 PM on February 1, 2018 [8 favorites]

Wow I would talk to your OB right away, like today. They'll either put you at ease or - I expect - write you a note to support an accommodation so you can change your duties at work. (And by the way - you wouldn't be doing your employer any favors to put a brave face on it / not change duties: the last thing they want is exposure to liability.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:11 PM on February 1, 2018 [6 favorites]

Do you wear an radiation exposure badge? I recall from some training recently that the level of acceptable exposure in an occupational sense is much lower for workers who are pregnant.

I completely understand your fear of having to report a miscarriage. Is your boss the kind of person who can keep a secret? I had miscarriages in 2017 and in some ways it would have been easier to tell my boss that I was pregnant earlier so that I wouldn't have had to come up with excuses to take last-minute time off.
posted by muddgirl at 1:14 PM on February 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm trying to wrap my head around your question.

Talk to your boss immediately + stay away from anything harmful. Do not risk it. It's not worth it, whatever blowback you are afraid of, it's just not worth it.

Telling your boss does not mean the whole facility will know. Just tell your boss and stay safe. That's all you have to do.

Take care of yourself.
posted by jbenben at 1:14 PM on February 1, 2018 [7 favorites]

Please tell your boss and ask your OB ASAP. I'm a Safety manager for a factory, and would be really upset if one of my employees was putting herself at risk unnecessarily. (We have had a pregnant person working here -- she told HR, who asked me to provide the OB with SDSs for the materials she worked with, to make sure everything was ok. I didn't find out until later, and then put 2&2 together)
posted by Fig at 1:23 PM on February 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

With similar chemical risks, I told my boss early and asked him to keep it private until whenever I announced it at our weekly lab meeting. He was very supportive. Since you sound happy with your boss, I wouldn't hesitate to contact your boss or HR, if you have particular concerns about how safety and risk are handled in your facility. For the chemical and radiation hazards you describe, additional PPE that can address the risks are easily obtainable and this shouldn't be a big deal.
posted by tchemgrrl at 1:27 PM on February 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

I do wear a radiation exposure badge, and so far I have been able to avoid all chemical use/hazardous materials. (This is in the US, and I work for a large federally-funded institution, though not a federal agency.) It sounds like I should inform my boss, unit safety officer, and OB as soon as possible. Thanks all.
posted by sizeable beetle at 1:29 PM on February 1, 2018 [7 favorites]

Congratulations on your pregnancy. FWIW, I had to tell my boss very early due to time off for morning sickness and she was more supportive than I thought. The last thing they want is a liability, yes, but also... anyone with any empathy would want you and your baby to be safe.

I'd go to manager first, HR second, and OB last to ensure you are accounting for all the chemicals you are exposed to (unless you know for sure... in that case, I'd call the OB first).

Best of luck!
posted by onecircleaday at 2:11 PM on February 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

Talk to your boss first. Request that you choose when or if you inform the rest of the workplace.

I found my OB pretty much useless in terms of what activities I could or could not do during pregnancy. Like trying to get advice from the college career office on how to apply to grad school in the sciences. They have vague suggestions and don’t understand the field. I googled a bunch and found federal guidelines for my profession. I did get useful information on the limitations of what I could lift in each trimester.

Pregnancy is not a uniform experience. There are so many variables and so many weird physical things and they all change from week to week. You can’t predict how your body is going to behave.
posted by sciencegeek at 2:13 PM on February 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

My org., which sounds similar to yours, has an Occupational Health Services Office (OHS), with doctors, nurses, and industrial hygienists on staff. If you have people like this available, you should be able to talk to them about working while pregnant in your particular office. Who provides your office with the radiation exposure badges? Who would you talk to if you had an issue? These would be the people/office I would be talking to now, as well as talking to your supervisor.
posted by gudrun at 5:35 PM on February 1, 2018

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