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Advice on pregnancy in lab?

(11 Posts)
NerdyViking Fri 31-Mar-17 18:11:42

Anyone have any advice on being pregnant and working in a lab?

I'm 6+2 and have told this week that I'm pregnant and there've been some mixed responses. Part of the issue is that my line manager is away this week so it's had to be escalated further.

On monday I was told I should get out of the lab asap - I haven't been in the lab since then, been working up in the office.

Upper management is now saying their stance is that the lab should be safe for everyone including pregnant women. However, immediate management, including the equivalent of my line manager on another team within the lab, is saying I shouldn't be in there.

So I'm feeling quite conflicted.

My concerns in regards to working in the lab are a few:

* I work in a pharmaceutical company that specializes in topical and transdermal formulations. So we get a lot of drugs in that need to be put into formulations. A lot of them are known teratogenic and a lot of them are completely new chemical entities so we have no idea whether they are harmful to a fetus or not. Now, women are not allowed to weigh out the pure drug but we do handle the formulations that contain them.

*I'm also worried about solvents such as acetonitrile, methanol, Isopropyl Alcohol. Now when I mentioned this concern, I was told that I should be using them in a fume hood. That´s all well and good but no one else in the lab does that, so I'm still exposed. We use them as diluent and are often adding diluent throughout the day, so it'll be in a beaker open on the bench. We also make solvent systems, so people will be weighing things out on a bench, so again, not in a fume hood

Some suggestion has been made that I could work in a small room separate from the rest of the lab, that sort of functions as its own minilab (although you still have to walk through the lab to get to it). Also that I could be trained on some of the instruments in one of the instrument rooms, so I would not be in the main lab area and not exposed to solvents or pure drug. (Again, still have to walk through the main lab)

Also, it's very preliminary R&D so standards are a bit more lax - there is another lab on site that has things like QC testing etc, where things are much more secure, but I'm quite a junior member of staff, so I don't think they'd have a position for me there, as well as I'd have to move roles/teams

Sorry for the word vomit, just feeling a bit conflicted as I'm getting conflicting advice from work. Any advice would be appreciated

SockQueen Fri 31-Mar-17 18:41:14

Your lab really should have H&S and Occupational Health people who know all the answers to all this. You shouldn't have to muddle through and make it up as you go along!

NerdyViking Fri 31-Mar-17 19:18:45

We have a health and safety officer but no occupational health - their excuse is that it's a really small company. They also haven't had anyone pregnant in the lab in quite some time, so they're not sure what to do

beekeeper17 Fri 31-Mar-17 19:32:38

I worked in pharmaceuticals when I was pregnant and made up different drug formulations. We looked at each drug/scenario separately and made a risk assessment. Most things I did were in closed systems but i was usually using needles to draw things up so if something was teratogenic or an unknown risk then I wouldn't have handled it even in a closed system as there would have been a small risk of an accidental needle stick injury. I used a lot of isopropyl alcohol spray but in a cabinet and wearing a mask.

In the end I didn't really have to change my day to day job much, but I did ask someone else to clean the cabinet when I was heavily pregnant as I just couldn't reach to the back and corners!!

I would think that they should remove you from lab work while they get a proper risk assessment together. I work in a small company too and had to help them with some of the details for the risk assessment.

beekeeper17 Fri 31-Mar-17 19:38:02

A good place to start is to get a list of all the products you could be exposed to and get the safety data sheets for each of them, they should give you helpful toxicological information.

ScarletBegonia1234 Fri 31-Mar-17 19:46:18

I had to do a risk assessment for the work I would be carrying out. You will need to look at the coshh forms for everything you will be working with! As previous posters mentioned it may be that you can still work with certain hazardous chemicals with appropriate safety measures in place. I am currently pregnant and am fine with most things but can't use things that explicitly may harm unborn child

Personally I don't see any issue with solvents such as methanol used appropriately (gloves etc) and I am using them still now.

ScarletBegonia1234 Fri 31-Mar-17 19:47:03

*also solvents have not been identified as a risk on my risk assessment

Littlebelina Fri 31-Mar-17 21:37:48

Have they done a pregnancy risk assessment with you yet? This is a legal requirement for all employees and needs to be done asap.

Littlebelina Fri 31-Mar-17 21:38:19

Employees not employees

Littlebelina Fri 31-Mar-17 21:39:32

Grr autocorrect. One last try employers! All employers not just labs

Friendofsadgirl Fri 31-Mar-17 21:48:20

It is up to your employer to do a risk assessment (and update it as pregnancy progresses). They need to check COSHH for every substance you could feasibly come into contact with. This may well result in you being excluded from lab areas. They would then need to find you alternative tasks to carry out.

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