5 Causes of Injury to Women in the Workplace

Since the end of World War II, women’s participation in the workforce has increased significantly from less than a third, to 47% in 2017. Peak labor force participation was in 1999, with a rate of 60% of women being employed. According to reports from the Department of Labor, 74.6 million women are in the workforce, and these women usually work full or part time and are over 16 years of age.

With women fulfilling nearly half of the job opportunities, it is important to see how gender changes have affected the criteria for health and safety in the work place. Although compared to men, women have a far lower rate of job-related deaths, workplace health and safety still is of great concern, and the difference between the sexes can partially be explained by the differences in the predominant occupations and industries in which they work. The different kinds of jobs translates into differences in how and why they suffer injuries or become sick at work. Here are the 5 leading causes of workplace injuries that affect women.

Homicide

The greatest killer of women in the workplace is murder. In 2003, 27% of fatal injuries to women in the workplace was due to homicide. In contrast to this shocking statistic, only a tenth of male fatalities at work was due to homicide. Women are not being kept safe while they are working. The majority of deaths for both sexes was by guns, although proportionally more women were stabbed than men. Another aspect of the study that is alarming is that the female victims were more likely to know the perpetrators, with them usually being their family members. The spread of domestic violence out of the home and into their workplaces is heartbreaking. Women need to be better defended at home, and at work.

The study identified that the majority of fatal injuries at work were principally caused by disgruntled co-workers or robberies.

Carpal tunnel syndrome

This occurs when duties of a role require the excessive and repetitive action of fingers, hands and arms which causes pressure on the nerve in the wrist. Typically, it causes tingling and numbness in the hand. Women who work in manufacturing plants assembling small parts and using equipment that requires repetitive movement are also prone to carpal tunnel syndrome.

Symptoms can include:

· an ache or pain in your fingers, hand or arm

· numb hands

· periodic tingling or pins/needles during day which worsens at night

· a weak thumb or difficulty gripping

The only long-term way to reduce symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome is to stop doing the action that causes it. Unfortunately, this is not an option for most people to whom this affects as the income the job provides is essential to support co-dependents. Carpal tunnel is one of the most common workplace injuries that women suffer from as women predominantly do the roles.

To alleviate symptoms, wear a wrist splint to keep the wrist straight and to alleviate pressure on the nerve. Make sure that you take a regular break from your duties, and use this time to exercise your wrists,

Musculoskeletal injuries

Musculoskeletal injuries or disorders are injuries of the muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, cartilage, or spinal discs. It causes, but is not limited to, any upper/lower limbs or back pain, and can affect the muscles or bones of the back from the base of the neck to the hips.

It can be caused by sitting or standing in the same position over a long period of time, overexertion, and repetitive motion which causes damage to the muscles or the bones of the spine and ribs, or to the disc between the vertebrae. Some examples of the types of jobs that cause women to suffer from these disorders are scanning groceries, overexertion from lifting, and typing for long periods of time.

These injuries can affect the quality of life sufferers can lead, and they are also the main avoidable workplace injuries. Employers need to ensure the safety of their staff by providing industrial, commercial or office equipment that is conducive to a safe working environment. Equipment such as lumbar supporting office chairs, safety ladders and work station assessments are mandatory to comply with industry relevant work health and safety regulations.

Exposure to workplace chemicals

Chemicals are used in both large and small businesses alike, from the chemicals used in manufacturing and agriculture, to the chemicals used in hair salons. Exposure to chemicals either through inhalation or application to the skin can cause serious injury.

Employers have to adhere to strict Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, and if they have not provided the necessary protective glasses, gloves, work coats or training that are essential to maintaining safety, serious injury can occur.

If employees are not being provided with adequate safety measures for their person, the chances are high that other OSHA regulations are being flouted. If chemicals are not being treated correctly, the risk of explosion and fire is heightened.

If you are in the situation where you believe that you are being put at risk, you must whistle blow to the authorities. Typically, explosions and fires are fatal to those caught in them, and for the survivors, the effects of explosions and fires are devastating with long term implications for health and well-being. Babcock Partners burn injury lawyers will pursue a case against companies whose lax and negligent standards have resulted in harm and injury to innocent people.

Slips and trips

Even though overall women suffer fewer workplace injuries than men, there are some specific occupations such as service occupations in which women account for a larger share of work related injuries, and these are principally down to slips and trips.

Trips

The layout of the work environment is typically to blame. Worn tiles, old carpeting, electrical cables that have not been secured safely are all potential causes of injury. Preventing injuries caused by tripping is simple and cost-effective. Your employer needs to ensure that walkways, housekeeping and the design and maintenance of your working environment are considered together to avoid trips.

Walkways need to be in the right place, and the right size for the foot traffic that uses them. Who uses the walkway? Is anyone using them who can’t see the floor when they are walking, for example, carrying boxes that may obscure their path?

Housekeeping does not just mean keeping the walkway clean! The walkway must be kept clear with no trailing electrical cables, boxes or bins. If there are bins and boxes in the walkway, this is a housekeeping issue – they need to be housed in a more suitable area.

Design and maintenance refer to things such as handrails for use on the stairs, adequate lighting and level flooring to ensure employee safety.

Slips

Slips typically involve water or other materials that shouldn’t be on the floor, and again, the majority of slips are avoidable.

Environmental issues can contribute to slips. Environmental considerations include rainwater being on the entrance floor, or condensation in a manufacturing area making the floor dangerous to employees.

Footwear has to be appropriate to the environment, and if you know that your workplace has hazards that may induce a slip, buy appropriate multi-directional slip resistant shoes. For many women, especially those that work as waitresses who are on their feet all day, other factors will influence the choice of footwear that they purchase for work such as comfort, durability and cost – slip resistance may be low down on their agenda.

The injuries that women have during their work life are mainly avoidable. There are strict regulations and legislations in place that are not being adhered to. The roles that women traditionally fill are not as hazardous per se as their male counterparts, but they can still inflict life-changing injuries. If you think that your employer has been negligent and has contributed to your injuries, you must seek legal advice. While you currently may be managing to continue in work, you do not know what the future holds, and what may feel like a minor niggle now can develop into a chronic complaint.

You must take responsibility for your own health and well-being, and for that of your colleagues. Encourage a more open working environment that fosters good feeling amongst colleagues. If you see someone struggling to open a doorway, open it for them. If you see a tripping hazard on a well-used walkway, either alert the necessary housekeeping team, or move it yourself. If you are getting backache from your workstation, the chances are that your colleagues are too. Your employer can’t improve working practices if they aren’t aware of a situation: tell them!

By working together harmoniously, not only does it improve the physical safety of the work environment, but it also increases mood, and your mental well-being will improve too. Think of ways to open communication between employees and employers. The chances are that employers will be happy to discuss improvements to your working environment once they appreciate that a happy workforce increases productivity!

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