The population of women working in construction in Massachusetts has grown over the last two decades, though it is still a small percentage of total workers. A national study found that the employment of women in the United States as a whole grew by 81.3% between 1985-2007.
Since then many women have left the construction field, leaving women workers as only 9% of the total force as of 2010. However, there are still many female construction workers. OSHA recently recognized that women face some specific unique problems in construction and other male-dominated, physically dangerous workplaces.
Accordingly, OSHA signed a two-year alliance with the National Association of Women in Construction, a support network for women working in construction. The goal of the alliance is to focus on development of resources to protect women working in the construction industry. These resources include training programs and fact sheets related to specific musculoskeletal hazards, sanitation and protective equipment. As many women have been leaving construction jobs since 2007, it is important to determine what barriers are stopping women from entering or remaining in the field.
One of the major issues that women construction workers encounter is improperly fitting personal protective equipment and clothing. The protective equipment is necessary for such things as fall protection, a major danger at construction sites.
Women’s protective equipment must be based on female body measurements, but all too frequently, the expectation is that women can wear men’s protective equipment. If protective equipment does not properly fit, it may not protect a worker from the hazard it is designed to lessen or negate.
OSHA advises women workers to test out their protective equipment. If it is damaged, doesn’t work, or doesn’t conform to their bodies, they should request a replacement from their employer.
The other issues OSHA flags are limited employer knowledge of how one obtains health and safety products for female workers and the limited availability of protective equipment specifically designed for women in a full range of women’s sizes. This means women that fall outside of a certain range of sizes may have to use men’s equipment or wear ill-fitting equipment or forgo equipment altogether. This spells trouble because injuries are so common on construction sites (and so preventable).
Also, women can have trouble accessing restrooms at construction job sites. The restrooms are often unisex and not well maintained or overused. As a result, women frequently avoid drinking water, risking heat stress and other health problems.
While this may seem minor, holding urine in the bladder for lengthy periods is associated with more urinary tract infections—more bladder and kidney infections. There is also the potential of other diseases from contact with dirty toilet seats. The toilet seat is not a major source of spreading infection, but it does happen. Some commonly transmitted bugs and viruses are streptococcus, E. coli, shigella bacteria, hepatitis, colds and STDs.
If you have been seriously injured on a construction site, an experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney may be able to help. Contact us by calling 800-367-0871 or using our online contact form.