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Safety and Health Risks for Women on the Jobsite

The most prominent safety and health hazards for construction workers include falls, being hit by falling objects or machinery, being trapped by trench cave-ins or between vehicles, electrocution, musculoskeletal disorders, and exposure to a variety of chronic health hazards such as noise, silica, asbestos, lead, hazardous wastes, heat and cold.

Women entering the construction industry face safety and health issues that differ from their male counterparts, such as inadequate physical protection, a possibly hostile work environment, and their status as a small fraction of the construction workforce. Follow are areas OSHA identifies as health and safety concerns for women.

Workplace Culture

A hostile work environment, sexist attitudes, sexual harassment, and threats of physical or sexual assault can result in psychological and physiological distress, distractions that may result in not taking proper safety precautions, added stress and injuries. In addition, the OSHA found women are reluctant to discuss jobsite conditions or safety because of fear of losing their jobs.

Sanitary Facilities

The lack of sanitary facilities affects men and women, but women face additional health risks. On jobsites with temporary unsanitary facilities offering little or no privacy, women often delayed using the facilities or refused to use them at all, resulting in increased risk of bladder and urinary tract infections.

Personal Protective Equipment and Clothing

Tools, equipment and protective clothing frequently are not sized to fit women. Ill-fitting clothing, boots, gloves and safety equipment cannot fully function as intended, resulting in accidents and decreased efficiency.

Ergonomics

Tools and equipment, just like clothing, often are designed to be used by average-sized men. Women need tools designed for smaller hands and training on how to use tools and equipment designed for men. Safe limits and techniques need to be determined for lifting and other motions that take into consideration the differences in male and female bodies and strength.

Reproductive Hazards

While exposure to hazardous materials and chemicals affect men and women, there are more work site exposures known to affect male sperm that produce birth defects.

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