The face of American construction sites is changing. From 1985 to 2007, the number of women who were employed in the construction industry increased by more than 81%. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Industries, by 2011 there were more than 800,000 women employed in various sectors of the construction industry.
So what does this mean for the health and safety of the workforce? Both male and female construction workers face many of the same hazards on the work site, including deadly falls, electrocutions, and entrapment. However, there are some unique challenges that greatly impact women, which increases their risk of work-related injury, illness, and death.
Occupational hazards specific to women construction workers are real, and a failure to acknowledge them undermines the safety of even the most well-organized workplaces. Providing sufficient safety and health protection is both vital and doable. You can follow the simple steps listed below to make sure you properly address the health and safety of women construction workers.
Purchase the Right Equipment
For the past several years, personal protection equipment (PPE) manufacturers have adapted to meet the needs of women. The availability of appropriately sized and designed PPE for women has become more readily available in recent years. As you evaluate available PPE options, try to buy equipment that not only meets OSHA regulations and ANSI standards, but also comes in sizes suited for women.
Facilitate Hands-On Equipment Tests
Many women in construction trades have to deal with inappropriate PPE, which then compromises their safety on the job. The available equipment should be based on body measurement data. Make a point to have all women try on the PPE provided in a controlled training environment. This includes a full-body harness, to determine if it is uncomfortable or not suitable for wear due to improper fit.
Physiological differences between men and women can turn into occupational hazards as well. It is crucial to have workers demonstrate proper knowledge relating to the full-body harness features, as well as the tools attached to the harness in order to make the right adjustments, if needed.
Culture of Safety and Fairness
Harassment and verbal abuse are construction job sites is not uncommon. Many workers believe they have to put up with occasional harassment to keep their jobs on a construction site. However, working in a hostile workplace can cause workers to become distracted and overlook important safety procedures. This can lead to serious injury or even death from accidents on the job, including falls.
As the construction force continues to diversify, it’s important to revisit and revises traditional safety practices to provide a safe and healthy work conditions for everyone- regardless of gender, race, or background.
Hutter, J. (2014, September 1). One Size Fits All. ISHN, 74-74.