This International Women’s Day on 8 March, UNI Global Union is putting the spotlight on women’s health and safety in the workplace.
In June, last year the International Labour Organization recognized health and safety as a fundamental right. Now, UNI’s Equal Opportunities department has released a guide which adds a gender-perspective to health and safety at work.
A gender-neutral approach to health and safety in the past has meant that very often the specific challenges to women’s health in the workplace have been neglected. This is often compounded by other intersectional factors impacting women, such as age, race and discrimination.
Women are more likely to be subjected to violence and harassment at work, particularly sexual harassment. PPE is frequently designed to fit men’s bodies, making it cumbersome to wear for women as well as ineffective. Studies in the U.S. show that women are workers are at a disproportionately high risk of incurring job-related musculoskeletal injuries, suffering 63 percent of all work-related repetitive motion injuries.
Additionally, support for women who are pregnant, menstruating or going through the menopause is often inadequate or non-existent. In the U.K., one in ten women have left work because of the menopause.
The guide examines inequality in health and safety, and highlights the impact of psychosocial risks for women, the use of hazardous substances, inadequate work material and uniforms, and sexual and reproductive health, amongst others. It also contains practical exercises to enable trade unions to start exploring the issue, whether in meetings or in workshops, so helping to protect women workers.
Veronica Fernandez Mendez, Head of UNI Equal Opportunities, said:
“For far too long, women’s particular needs when it comes to health and safety at work have been ignored. By adding a gender perspective and taking a holistic approach to health and safety, we can make work a better place for women, where they feel safe and protected in their jobs.”
‘The Need for a Gender Perspective on Occupational Health & Safety – A Practical Guide’ was produced with support from German trade union donor organization DGB-BW and can be downloaded below.