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Work and career play an important role for many women. It is a source of inspiration that energizes you to do your best for your family and enjoy the achievements that are all yours. Yet specific occupational safety risks pose a particular danger for female workers and should be taken seriously.
Aside from sexual harassment that may lead to severe mental health issues, women can physically suffer from occupational health hazards. Thus, we wish to share the most effective safety measures you can adopt for yourself or provide as an employer.
The overall picture of female safety issues at work differs significantly from males. About 74% of women claim feeling suppressed and highly anxious due to work-related reasons, in contrast to 61% of men.
At the same time, ladies constitute a small share of fatal injuries occurring at the workplace – only 8.1% of total occupational lethal accidents, according to the 2020 National Census from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, female workers face verbal and sexual aggression in their professional surroundings more often. Research held by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) revealed that women had filed 78% of total charges against sexual harassers at their workplaces.
The starting point to protect personal safety and health should be awareness. Now let's focus on what stressors and hazards you primarily need to pay attention to.
These issues that undermine safety for women in their working environment are typical for most industries:
Verbal and physical aggression. Sexual offenses and verbal abuse are often underestimated compared to other workplace violence cases. However, such episodes are highly stressful and may ruin a woman's life. There were many examples when victims ceased their careers, changed jobs, and experienced social stigmatization.
Stress. Apart from the types of abuse mentioned above, women suffer from over-exhaustion due to long work hours and intensity. It drains their mental power and has dire consequences for every aspect of life.
Long-term workplace illnesses. Continuous discomfort and strained body positions lead to various occupational health disorders. Such musculoskeletal disorders as tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and spinal curvature affect women occupied in most of the "traditional" job areas.
Workplace accidents. Despite the strict regulations and safety prescriptions at hazardous industrial facilities, women might lack protection from injuries at construction sites and other dangerous workplaces. Serial personal protective equipment (PPE) is still primarily designed for men, so it may fail to ensure decent women's safety at the workplace.
Insufficient safety for women during night shifts. Female personnel may encounter workplace violence if the employer doesn't provide sufficient security measures for working after dark.
Regulatory acts and national safety programs have significantly impacted workplace safety for women. Some of the United States' most valuable initiatives related to women's safety at the workplace are:
Pregnancy Discrimination Act. It requires employers to modify tasks for pregnant workers. It advises alternating their duties according to their health and current capabilities. Employers must provide lighter tasks and working conditions. According to the Act, female workers also have a right to apply for disability leave in case the demands of their role cannot be leveled down.
OSHA's (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) prevention programs. OSHA's guidelines share practical suggestions for organizations on managing employees in case of occupational safety issues. For instance, their programs include plans designed for workplace violence prevention in late-night convenience stores.
Safe + Sound Week. A program for organizations that offers assistance in developing a robust system of health and employees' safety protection. The program primarily focuses on implementing measures to prevent workplace injuries and illnesses.
Employers and workers must join efforts to eliminate workplace safety issues. An employer must nurture a healthy work climate and comply with safety requirements. On the other hand, as an employee, you should be proactive and self-aware to manage risks independently or request help in an emergency. Here are some practical steps for both administration and female workers.
Prioritize life-work balance. Ensure flexible schedules and proper rest, considering employees' need to participate in family life and have rest.
Develop an appropriate sexual harassment policy. Build zero tolerance for any forms of retaliation, prejudgement, and abuse at the workplace. Also, encourage women to inform you immediately if they get humiliated and offended.
Provide a security monitoring system. Security cameras, automated alerts, and emergency reporting systems are vital for prompt response to man-made or natural disasters. We also strongly recommend that mid-size companies practice emergency plan training regularly.
Have a supply of well-fitting PPE. Revise and replace PPE to ensure women's safety at the workplace. Pay extra attention to the equipment that must protect the face and head, like respirators, hard hats, and goggles.
Voice your concerns to colleagues and supervisors. You must immediately report any violation or substantial risk to your (or someone else's) safety to the people in charge. In case there's friction between you and the administration, seek support among the co-workers to back you up and emphasize the significance of an issue.
Commute safely at night. Although it's the company's responsibility to ensure safety for women during their transportation to late-night work, you should be aware of your surroundings. The necessary precautions are:
Make sure you know the details of the car that picks you up (plate number, company logo).
The cab driver should have an ID card from your organization or transportation provider.
A male associate or security guard should accompany you on a ride.
Practice self-defense. Self-defense techniques and equipment will give you additional confidence if there is an actual assault. But note that physical response to workplace violence must be justified like any self-defense act. An "imminent threat of lethal or severe bodily harm" would be an excuse for using pepper spray or other defense tools.
Know the emergency procedures. Regularly revise emergency evacuation plans and specific security protocols implemented at your job site. This knowledge and emergency plan training prepare you for sudden accidents.
Don't ignore health concerns. Sad but true, we often ignore bearable discomfort and alarm bells from our bodies. But you must listen to yourself to avoid fatigue and prevent more serious diseases. You can try to develop healthy habits using health and wellness apps, especially if you have a sedentary job.
A personal safety app is an excellent way to boost workplace safety. The AllsWell Alert app offers a simple and affordable solution to empower safety for women during work hours and commuting. The app supports:
Passive and active alerts. SOS messaging can be triggered manually by tapping a panic button or sent automatically due to the prolonged inactivity of the user.
Simple management of emergency contacts
Delivery of SOS messages both via SMS and email
Battery-saving background GPS tracking