According to the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) male and female construction workers share many health and safety concerns, including muscle strains, lifting issues, reproductive hazards and sanitary concerns. However, ASSE notes the solutions to some of these concerns may differ for women, not only in construction, but also in a number of other industries.
ASSE Buffalo, NY member Carol Schmeidler, CSP, who authored a Safety and Health Issues for Women chapter in ASSE’s Construction Safety Management and Engineering book, says one difference is that PPE and clothing often are designed for average-size men.
That means protective equipment and clothing may not fit women properly, so its effectiveness might be reduced as a result. Schmeidler says supervisors should ensure that their female workers are satisfied that their PPE and work clothing fits properly. This includes hardhats, breathing apparatus and hand protection.
Other safety tips for females in construction provided by ASSE include:
- Ensuring that construction tools such as hammers fit workers who have smaller hands.
- Providing wheelbarrows for heavy loads, or where possible, allowing loads to be dragged instead of lifted. Often, large loads can be broken down into lighter, more manageable piles or bundles.
- Helping workers maintain their visibility at construction sites by wearing bright, reflective vests. Smaller workers may not be as visible to machine and vehicle operators, so these vests can help them to stand out during adverse weather conditions or in low light.
- Letting all workers know that harassment or hostility will not be tolerated and that all incidents will be reported to upper management and human resources.
- Encouraging workers to dress properly for cold weather conditions and providing regular breaks to protect workers from frostbite and hypothermia.
- Ensuring that workers stay drink enough water while working in hot conditions either indoors or outdoors.
- Providing sanitary conditions for all workers. Pregnant women especially, require sanitary conditions to prevent infections, including provision of hand soap or sanitizing wipes. All workers should be encouraged to wash their hands or use sanitizing gels or wipes after working.
To read more about women in construction and safety and health considerations, visit: www.osha.gov/doc/accsh/haswicformal.html