We have a pregnant member of staff who has to drive a company car for work purposes. Are there any issues we need to consider when assessing the risks associated with pregnancy and driving?
Driving during pregnancy is absolutely fine, as long as the expectant mother has a healthy pregnancy. Some women can experience health problems during pregnancy, for which a sympathetic approach is needed, and at some point, changes to work patterns including driving may be required.
The two main issues are the potential for fatigue and the ability of the driver to comfortably use the vehicle as the pregnancy progresses.
Generally, mental and physical fatigue increases during pregnancy, and long working hours can have a significant effect on the health of expectant mothers. It should also that driving while fatigued can increase the risks of road traffic accidents occurring.
The following control measures may be considered.
Avoid long distance driving if possible. If long journeys cannot be avoided consider sharing the task of driving with another member of staff and/or scheduling in regular rest and comfort breaks.
Ensuring that the driver is well rested and feeling healthy
Consider the time of day driving will need to be undertaken such as rush hour or unsociable hours and avoid where possible.
Take into account any medications that are being used.
It is also important that the expectant mother adjusts her driving position to ensure maximum comfort while driving. Most vehicles now allow drivers to adjust seat height, angle and distance as well as the steering column. A refresh on how to adjust seating can be done as part of the new and expectant mother risk assessment exercise.
The use of seat belts is another matter to be considered. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents guidance, Driving for Work: Fitness to Drive, notes that it is important that women who are pregnant wear their seat belt correctly.
The guidance recommends that the diagonal strap should be between the breasts, over the breastbone, resting on the shoulder, not the neck. The lap belt should be placed on the thighs, fitting beneath the abdomen and over the pelvis, not the bump. The belt should be worn as tightly as possible. It also notes that pregnant women should never wear lap-only belts.
Pregnancy does not automatically exempt women from the requirement to wear a seat belt but a doctor may issue a Certificate of Exemption if there is a medical reason for not using one. This certificate should be carried at all times when driving as it will need to be produced should the expectant mother be stopped by the police.
Finally, as the pregnancy progresses, the expectant mother’s position in relation to the airbag should be considered. She should sit as far back as possible from the airbag, while ensuring she can still easily reach and operate all the controls.