Factory Safety for Women

 

Safety is job #1 in most factories, or should be, but women may face a different set of safety concerns.

Musculoskeletal disorders or MSDs

MSDs are one of the major types of injury seen in factories. They are seen more often among women than in men, however. One reason may be that women are more likely to be performing repetitive tasks which tend to lead to injuries in the wrist, hand, or neck.

Men are more likely to have back and knee injuries. Researchers assume that this is because they are more likely to do jobs involving heavy lifting than jobs with repetitive motions.

But there are other factors that put women at greater risk.

Factories are typically built with men in mind. Work surfaces may be higher than the optimum for women of average height, because they are not as tall as the average man. Personal protective equipment may not be sized appropriately for women. In general, ergonomic planning has not considered women.

Workplace violence

Unfortunately, workplace violence is a fact of modern life. Workplaces are the most common settings for mass shootings, and violent death is now one of the most common causes of workplace fatalities.

Women are more likely to experience physical violence, and far more likely to face sexual violence than men.

Solutions

A journal article from 2016 suggested that “hiring men instead of women” would be a good solution to the problem. ┬áThis is not a modern solution.

One study found, unsurprisingly, that OSHA-compliant factories had fewer instances of injuries among the women working in them.  Making sure that normal safety standards are met in the factory is an obvious first step.

PPE should be available in women’s as well as in men’s sizes. There should be enough equipment in a variety of sizes to meet the needs of all the employees. Overgeneralizing is not useful, but workers come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, so it is in everyone’s best interests to have equipment for the gamut of employees.

Workers should also be monitored for ergonomic issues. Rather than discouraging complaints, administrators should routinely check to ensure that work stations are at appropriate heights for the workers who use them, whether they be male or female.

Finally, there should be no-tolerance policies for sexual harassment. Women in an industrial workplace are likely to hesitate to complain. Workplace culture may discourage everyone from bringing up problems, and women may feel that they have to prove that they are “team players.” The idea of needing to “go along to get along” is alive and well in male-dominated industries. Management should stand up to this kind of attitude.

Between the skills gap and the labor shortage, women are needed in today’s factories. Keeping them safe will help keep them at work.