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Focus On: Working Safely During Pregnancy

It is important for employees and employers to identify and reduce health and safety risks prior to pregnancy as the most sensitive time in a baby’s development is during the first few weeks, before pregnancy has been confirmed.


There are many factors contributing to a healthy pregnancy. Here are some ways in which the workplace plays a role and simple changes to help employees work safely while pregnant:

Workplace condition
What employers can do
What employees can do

Strenuous work

Extended hours or physically demanding work is associated with a slightly higher risk for miscarriage, preterm labour or a low birth weight baby.

  • Review work assigned to the pregnant employee
  • Assign shorter shifts
  • Limit overtime when possible
  • Ensure the work station is designed to minimize strain and fatigue
For more details on what obstetricians consider strenuous work see Healthy Beginnings, 4th Edition, available through the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
  • Negotiate frequent rest and nutrition breaks
  • Avoid lifting more than 23 kg (50 pounds) after the 20th week of pregnancy
  • Avoid lifting more than 11 kg (24 pounds) after the 24th week of pregnancy 
  • When lifting, bend knees and squat, keeping your back straight
  • Minimize repetitive bending, climbing and twisting

Physical conditions

  • Minimize exposure to conditions such as excessive vibration, noise and heat
  • Provide safety and protective equipment and training for proper use
  • If work in extreme heat is unavoidable, allow for frequent breaks in cooler areas.
Peel Public Health has Safety Guidelines for indoor and outdoor workers to manage extreme heat conditions.
  • Use protective equipment as directed
  • If working in extreme heat, drink about 2 litres of water throughout the day

Chemical exposures

  • Provide alternative work to reduce or eliminate exposures
  • Investigate alternative safer products and processes
  • Ensure properly fitting protective equipment and ventilation
  • Limit use of hazardous chemicals
  • Review WHMIS data sheets to be informed of potential exposures and prevention measures
  • Follow product safety guidelines

Biological hazards

Certain infections may cause miscarriage, birth defects or health problems for you and your baby.

  • Ensure proper facilities, equipment, and time for personal hygiene
  • Keep employees informed of any outbreaks
  1. Review immunization status with your health care provider
  2. Wash hands often especially before eating
  3. Avoid contact with people who are ill
  4. If you believe you have come in contact with an infectious disease, see health care provider as soon as possible


More Information for Employers

In Ontario, nearly every workplace is covered by the Ontario Health & Safety Act and regulations. Under the Ontario Human Rights Code employers have a responsibility to make changes to working conditions in order to allow a pregnant employee to continue working. Pregnant employees may also be protected by a collective agreement.

  • If an employee anticipates challenges as her pregnancy progresses, offer suggestions and ask for ideas
  • Be flexible and willing to negotiate


More Information for Employees

Most women can work safely throughout their pregnancy without any harmful effects on the baby. It’s important to consider your own health and to be aware that your growing baby places extra physical demands on your body.

Managing both work and family life is difficult for many people. Pregnancy is a time to re-think priorities and the pace of your lifestyle.

  • Identify your sources of stress
  • Use relaxation techniques and physical activity to reduce stress
  • Schedule time to do things you enjoy
  • Ask for help when you need it


Facts & Stats

  • Most pregnant women continue to work right up until their due date (PDF, pg 6 of 78) and plan to return to work after birth and maternity leave.
  • In the Region of Peel, there are about 16,000 births each year1.
  • Employers have a responsibility under the Ontario Human Rights Code to make changes to working conditions in order to allow a pregnant employee to continue working.

1. Region of Peel - Public Health, Healthy Babies Healthy Children program.


Additional Resources


Other Topics


Revised: July 31, 2014


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