International Women’s Day: occupational health and safety with a gender perspective

International Women’s Day: occupational health and safety with a gender perspective

Women’s rights include working in a safe and healthy environment, protected by their unions. This 8 March 2022, International Women’s Day, UNI Europa Equal Opportunities is focusing on women’s health in the workplace, raising awareness on the need to include a gender perspective in occupational health and safety policies.

The #WOMENOHS campaign aims at understanding the issues that affect women in the workplace and to make these issues visible. Crucial topics such as reproductive and sexual health; women’s health (ovarian, breast cancer); mental health; pregnancy and loss, high exposure to chemicals in female-dominated jobs will be addressed as well. The role of working women and their unions in health and safety measures at workplace, company and sectoral level is essential to ensure these policies respond to real needs and deliver effective measures.

It can no longer be denied that the workload and work-related risks for women in the workplace are often underestimated and are particularly different from the ones faced by their male colleagues. These differences are often not recognised in health and safety practice. On 8th of March, International Women’s Day, UNI Europa Equal Opportunities highlights these differences and to help improve organisational health and safety (OSH) in areas that primarily affect women.

Women in the workforce often operate in specific sectors with specific types of tasks. They often face dual responsibilities at work and at home. They do jobs that are wrongly assumed to be safe and easy and are under-represented at supervisory and managerial levels. Workers in care, hair and beauty, commerce, cleaning and in other feminised sectors are confronted by these issues. Policies must be brought in that are adapted to addressing the specific needs of these workers.

“In UNI Europa Equal Opportunities we believe in creating inclusive workplaces whereby everyone has an opportunity to participate to their full capacity. This participation is centred around the ability to complete tasks and duties in a safe and sustainable work environment. In that regard we are striving for a gender perspective in occupational health and safety policies. For example, many female dominated sectors and occupations involve tasks that put workers at more risk of developing MSD’s amongst other risks,” explained Carol Scheffer, UNI Europa Women’s Committee President.

“We are also very much aware of the need to address topics such as reproductive health; women’s health (ovarian, breast cancer); mental health; pregnancy and as well as the traumatic experience of pregnancy loss. For International Women’s Day 2022,  we are launching our campaign to highlight the need for a gender perspective for OHS. This will be relevant to all UNI affiliates irrespective of location or sector and we encourage your participation on this important issue.”

“As our 2022 campaign makes clear, women rights include working in a safe and healthy environment, protected by their unions. UNI Europa Equal Opportunities welcomes the “vision zero” on work-related accidents and the much-needed gender focus on occupational safety and health, put forward by the European Commission,” said Amel Selma Djemail, UNI Europa Equal Opportunities Director. “On International Women’s Day 2022, we call again for EU directives on work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and psychosocial risks (PSRs) that will protect services workers across Europe. It is urgent to identify the risks and prevention measures for women, migrant and LGBTI+ workers who are particularly vulnerable and exposed to MSDs & PSR so that  a  gender  dimension  in implementing these policies is crucial.”

Today, UNI Europa Equal Opportunities also welcome the landmark Social Dialogue Joint Declaration on Diversity, Inclusion and non-Discrimination from the Insurance sector. This excellent initiative is all the more timely as the health and safety issues covered by the tool are key work priority areas for the EU institutions and decision-makers.

 

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