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Basic Conditions of Employment Act, 1997 (Act No. 75 of 1997)

Codes of Good Practice

Code of Good Practice on the Protection of Employees during Pregnancy and after the Birth of a Child


Schedule 3 : Chemical Hazards



What is the Risk

How to avoid the Risk

Anaesthetic gases

Exposure to anaesthetic gases during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage.

Exposure to high concentrations of anaesthetic gases should be avoided during pregnancy.


Carbon Monoxide

Risks arise when engines or appliances using petrol, diesel and liquefied petroleum gas are operated in enclosed areas. Carbon monoxide can result in the foetus being starved of oxygen.


Occupational exposure to carbon monoxide should be avoided during pregnancy and breast-feeding.

Antimitotic (Cytotoxic) drugs

Exposure to antimitotic drugs. which are used for treating cancer, damages genetic information in human sperm and egg cells. Some of these drugs can cause cancer. Absorption is by inhalation or through the skin.

Workers involved in the preparation and administration of antimitotic drugs should be afforded maximum protection Direct skin contact can be avoided by wearing suitable gloves and gowns. Pregnant employees potentially exposed to cancer drugs should be offered the option of transfer to other duties.


Ethylene oxide

Ethylene oxide is used mainly in sterilising procedures in hospital. Exposure may occur when sterilised goods are transferred to the aerator after the cycle is complete and when changing the gas tanks.

Health risks can be minimised by reducing worker exposure during transfer when the steriliser door is opened. Pregnant employees exposed to ethylene oxide above the acceptable level should be transferred to other duties.



Exposure of pregnant and breast-feeding employees to lead affects the nervous system of young children and is detrimental to child development.

Contact with lead should be avoided during pregnancy and breast-feeding. The Lead Regulations issued under OHSA must be complied with. These Regulations specify, levels at which employees must be withdrawn from exposure to lead.


Mercury and mercury derivatives

Organic and inorganic mercury compounds can have adverse effects on the mother and foetus.


Women of childbearing age should not be exposed to mercury compounds.

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)

PCBs can cause deformities in the child. Maternal exposure before conception can also affect foetal development as PCBs can be passed on to the foetus through the mother's blood.


No pregnant women should be exposed to PCBs at work.

Organic solvents

Exposure to organic solvents including aliphatic hydrocarbons, toluene and tetrachloroethylene can lead to miscarriage and have a detrimental effect on the foetus.


Pregnant women should be protected to exposure against these organic solvents.

Pesticides and herbicides

Exposure to certain pesticides and herbicides is associated with an increased risk of miscarriage and can adversely affect the development of the child.


Exposure to pesticides and herbicides should be avoided or minimised.


Foetal alcohol syndrome can lead to physical and mental abnormalities in children. Workers in the beverage, catering and associated industries, including wine farming, are particularly at risk.


Where appropriate, employees should be informed of and counselled in the hazards associated with foetal alcohol syndrome.

Tobacco smoke

Tobacco smoke contains carbon monoxide and carcinogenic and other harmful substances. Smoking and the inhalation of environmental smoke affects foetal blood supply and can lead to retarded growth and development and more early childhood diseases. Smoking carries an increased risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Care should be taken to ensure that women employees are able to work without being exposed to tobacco smoke.