Choose to Challenge!
Some tasks that women are predominantly involved in like cleaning and washing at the workplace have exposed them to harsh detergents, which is made worse by lack of effective use of Personal Protective Equipment(PPEs). This has consequently pre-disposed women to various skin diseases, eye irritation and upper respiratory problems.
I had just become well acclimatized to working in a company involved in male-dominated activities when I got pregnant with my second child. My work station was at one of their go-downs where welding, metal cutting among other activities summed up a typical day. As such exhaust fumes spewed from the welding activities and became unwanted guests that would naturally occupy my much needed office space. Obviously, I developed growing concern for the dear life that was growing inside of me and what I was exposing it to on a daily basis. At that time, I felt rather intimidated to raise the concerns, first because I was the only female employee, and I did not think anyone would resonate with me. Secondly, I was still on probation, meaning that I was trying my best to keep the job and raising demands would have seemed counter-effective. I therefore never raised the concern. About one month later, as I was preparing to go to work, I noticed something was wrong with my pregnancy. I rushed to hospital and after examination, the doctor informed me that I had a threatened miscarriage. He further explained that it might have been caused by many factors including work stress, environmental factors among others.
We recently celebrated International Women’s Day and the theme for this year is “Choosing to Challenge”. Empowered by this motto, today I choose to challenge gender issues related to safety and health at workplaces. The world of work has changed with more entry of women into the labor market. In the light of this, there is need to embrace a gender sensitive approach in occupational health and safety considerations at workplaces. There is need to design a gender sensitive occupational health and safety policy that integrates gender elements at workplace risk assessment activities, and establishment of preventative measures and compensation arrangements, among others.
Women risks at the workplaces have often been overlooked and it is high time we start recognizing the health outcomes for women as they are exposed to different health hazards. Traditionally, research and preventative measures have been targeted to jobs dominated by men. However, we need to address imperative questions such as how are women provided for by occupational health services? Are there added risks for women entry into male dominated work areas? Do biological differences contribute to women’s accident risks when using work machinery designed for men? How do the different tasks women carry out affect their occupational safety and health? What can be done to prevent or reduce the risks that women face in such workplaces?
Research has shown that using tools designed specifically for men have contributed to high workplace accident risks among women. Additionally, women have been exposed to some specific stressors because of discrimination at workplaces, reconciliation of work and home responsibilities leading to stress which can be linked to mental health effects, and psychological disorders like chronic fatigue, among others. Some tasks that women are predominantly involved in like cleaning and washing at the workplace have exposed them to harsh detergents, which is made worse by lack of effective use of Personal Protective Equipment(PPEs). This has consequently pre-disposed women to various skin diseases, eye irritation and upper respiratory problems.
In conclusion, there is need to advance our discussions with all key players including government institutions, national authorities, social partners, and experts to ensure we develop concrete measures that effectively integrate gender dimension into health and safety policies. Therefore, let us arise and choose to challenge gender issues in safety and health at workplaces because in doing so, we shall not only provide a safe environment for the women workforce, but we shall also maximize their efficiency and productivity. This will systemically support companies and businesses to achieve optimal performance whilst safeguarding the health and dignity of women.