Making health and safety an issue for everyone
Men are almost twice as likely to suffer a serious injury at work as women, and for decades health and safety practice has reflected what has been seen traditionally as a problem most affecting men. As a result more attention has been given to industries such as construction where injury rates are much higher and which have a predominantly male workforce.
But work does not just injure people, it also makes them ill and if you look at who is more likely to suffer health issues, the situation is reversed with women far more likely to be suffering a work-related illnesses. (4,180 per 100,000 women as opposed to 3,810 per 100,000 men).
We have to therefore make sure that we are addressing the health problems, but without ignoring the very important safety issues. Unfortunately health has always been the Cinderella of health and safety with far less attention given by both employers and regulators to issues such as muscular pain, stress and cancers. Yet health and safety is an issue that is just as important for women as it is for men, but often the problems, and solutions are different, after all machinery and protective equipment designed for men may not be suitable for women. That is why unions need to ensure that when we are preventing risk we take into account the differences rather than just follow the ‘one size fits all’ approach.
In preparation for International Workers Memorial Day on 28th April, the TUC’s Gender and Occupational Safety and Health group has produced a simple guide and checklist for union workplace representatives aimed at ensuring that the differences between men and women are taken into account when assessing risk and deciding suitable risk control solutions. This means that there is a greater chance of ensuring that the health, safety and welfare of all workers is protected, says the TUC.
In addition to producing a guide to the issues around women and health and safety, the guide contains a checklist for trade union representatives to help them pursue issues around gender at work – including questions about whether sex and gender differences are taken into account in manual handling risk assessments, and in assessments of postural problems including prolonged standing or sitting.
We hope that unions will use the new guide to pursue issues around gender in the workplace, and make sure that all workers have the best possible protection from illness or injury. But the best way to ensure that both men and women are best protected is to make sure that as many people as possible are members of a trade union.