15 - 17 October 2024 | SARIT CENTRE, NAIROBI, KENYA

Safety for all – the need for gender-responsive OHS

POSTED: 13th Sep

The TUC’s guide for trade union activists on Gender in occupational safety and health illustrates that occupational health and safety often treats men and women as if they were the same. Less attention is given to the health and safety needs of women.

Traditional emphasis of health and safety, and related research, have been on risk prevention in visibly dangerous work largely carried out by men in sectors like construction and mining, where inadequate risk control can lead to fatalities. As a result, women’s occupational injuries and illnesses, like work-related stress or musculoskeletal disorders have been largely ignored, under-diagnosed, under-reported and under-compensated.

Across the world, work equipment, tools and personal protective equipment (PPE), have been traditionally designed for the male body size and shape. Moreover, as explained by the ILO, the design of most PPE is based on the sizes and characteristics of male populations from certain countries in Europe, Canada and the United States. As a result, not only women, but also many men experience problems finding suitable and comfortable PPE because they do not conform to this standard male worker model.

Gender inequality both inside and outside the workplace can affect women’s occupational safety and health and there are important links between wider discrimination issues and health. According to the ILO, in general, women are more exposed than men to psychosocial risks that can cause work-related stress, burnout, violence, discrimination and harassment.

The extra responsibilities that women face as paid workers and unpaid carers for their families make that women’s stress levels remain high after work. Not acknowledging gender differences may mean that apparently neutral policies impact differently on women and men and reinforce existing inequalities. OSH is a core aspect of promoting gender equality.

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