International Women’s Day – Is Workplace Safety Different for Women?

Tomorrow is International Women’s Day – an annual celebration of all things female and women’s rights. This week’s blog will be all about the female experience in the workplace as well as exploring workplace safety and how it can differ for women.

Women at Work

In Europe, women make up 42% of the employed population. Their job roles, working conditions and treatment can affect the hazards they face at work. As such, gender does play a role when considering workplace safety.

Men are more likely to be killed at work then women are – this is in part, down to the industries that men may be more commonly found in, construction for example. Women do work in construction but it’s a heavily male-dominated industry, women tend to dominate other industries and as such, are at a higher risk for other workplace injuries than men. For example, carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, respiratory diseases, infectious and parasitic diseases, and anxiety and stress disorders are all seen more frequently in female workers.

image shows two women working

Women are also much more likely to face sexual harassment in the workplace too. A survey by the BBC showed that nearly half of British women have been harassed in the workplace. 63% of survey respondents also said that they didn’t report the harassment.

Harassment isn’t the only thing not reported in the workplace; it is thought that because women are more likely than men to do part-time, temporary, or contract work they may suffer from more job insecurity. In turn, job insecurity means that women are less likely to report accidents, workplace safety concerns or other issues to their employers.

The workplace risks for women can also change – depending on life circumstances women are experiencing. For instance, pregnant and nursing mothers may have an increased chance of having a workplace accident or tasks that they would have ordinarily undertaken may become riskier (lifting, for example).

Women are also more likely to be caregivers in their hours outside of work – this could be caring for children, an elderly or sick relative or friend. Additional family pressures mean women may be more likely to suffer from stress or anxiety.

How Can Women Be Protected in the Workplace?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) suggests here that more research is needed into gender associated hazards and how best to approach women’s safety. This is also echoed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in this report.

WHO does also state in the report that women should be empowered in order to protect their health and that men and women should be treated equally.

Women should also have a bigger part in policy making. HSE state in their report that women are under-represented in health and safety decision making. Women’s views and experiences of female-specific health and safety issues are often marginalised, underestimated or overlooked.

Here are five ways to make your workplace safe for women:

  1. Adopt and enforce a zero-tolerance violence and sexual harassment policy. Make employees aware of what is and isn’t acceptable in their workplace
  2. Create a culture where all employees, no matter the hours they work, or their gender feel empowered to report safety concerns
  3. Involve women in policy-making processes where their experience could be different from their male colleagues
  4. Adopt policies that are considerate of family commitments, flexible working for example.
  5. Go the extra mile to make women feel safe. If you have lone working staff, then ideally you should be providing them with a lone worker device. You can also provide female staff with devices even if they don’t work alone – devices can be used by women when travelling to and from work as an extra layer of security.

Get in Touch

If you have any workplace safety concerns, want to know more about protecting your female staff or have any questions about lone worker solutions then please contact us.