Health, gender and occupational safety

30 December 2022

Luckymoni Debnath :
The usual misconception that women's employment is secure and that any health issues found among female employees may be attributed to their unfitness for duty has hindered efforts to enhance women's occupational health. The impact of employment on women's health has only lately come to the attention of researchers, healthcare providers, and advocates for safety and security due to the rise in the number of working women.
SAFE WORK is a global program focused on health, safety, and environment. The central goal of the program is to enhance working friendly environment so that the member states are better able to guard employees' health, preclude and lessen hazards in the workplace, damages, and diseases, as well as minimize occupational and work-related diseases. The principal aims of the program include improving the ability of ILO member countries and industries to develop and implement efficient preventative policies and programs, raising the consciousness of the scope and effects of job-related misfortunes, illnesses, and ailments on a global scale, and advancing the goal of providing all workers with a minimum level of protection in accordance with international labor law.
Concerning reproductive hazards, the risk to the fetus is significantly higher because women's exposure can have teratogenic as well as other negative effects. Most protective laws have prioritized the protection of pregnant women and women of reproductive age are found according to the paper. Whereas, nowadays, numerous studies explain how exposure to specific chemicals might harm a woman's reproductive system. Working with cytotoxic medications, for instance, has been connected to birth abnormalities, miscarriages, stillbirths, and reproductive problems.
The anxiety of getting fired from the job, sexual assault, discernment, or other non-professional reasons like household issues, juggling various responsibilities, health anxieties, commuting, and financial concerns can all exacerbate stress. Many electronic assembly procedures also require quick, uninteresting physical movements which can result in recurring disturbance syndromes and various musculoskeletal ailments.
Many nations have implemented protection measures to safeguard working women, including the ban on night labor, subterranean employment, and other activities deemed harmful to women's reproductive health. These measures include limiting exposure to specific chemicals. Since some protective legislation has resulted in discriminatory outcomes that have decreased women's access to employment opportunities, such measures have come under increased scrutiny.  Effective health promotion programs must take three factors as sociologists, anthropologists, and psychologists into consideration to study the multidimensional aspects affecting women's health. Since the late 1970s, improving training and education programs and fostering a healthy work environment have been top priorities in the effort to promote workers' health.
Establishing a national information database on the professional health as well as safety of female workforces, and developing a national code of ethics, standards, and practice guidelines on specific hazards faced by female employees is necessary. Women should have greater representation and be more active involvement in case of decision-making procedures regarding the defense of their health.  At the national and corporate levels, there should be an increased emphasis on assisting female workers in organizing themselves and taking part in the betterment of their working circumstances. In the case of Reproductive health, there are a lot of factors to consider when a worker is pregnant to continue working at her regular job.
Violence and harassment in the workplace of women are other painful and rampant issues. Women frequently work in fields like healthcare and front-line customer service, where workplace violence is more likely to occur. Regrettably, gender bias often creeps into these circumstances as well. Women are also subjected to more occupational agitation than men. The gender-related disparity in the employment rates of men and women in leadership positions is referred to as vertical segregation. Surprisingly, the female employment rate in leadership places is very negligible still now in Europe, especially given the general women participation rate and the fact that females typically earn higher school-leaving degrees compared to men.
Vertical segregation is the women working at the top level of management. Less than one-third of corporate executives are female, and many major corporations still don't have females on their management boards. Lack of professional options causes a lack of desire, which negatively affects mental health and may, in the long run, result in mental disease. Compared to typical male employment, usually, the jobs of women have far lower authority in taking decisions.
Accidents in the industries that are the highest incidence faced by females included "agricultural, hunting and forestry," "hotels and restaurants," and "health and social work". Moreover, MSDs factors such as making movements or replacement of patients in the healthcare industry can also be connected to female accidents in the workplace. More research is required to fully understand how females' travelling injuries vary depending on various means of transportation and varied household responsibilities.
Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) risk factors among different age groups women respond in a different way to various working situations, and duties, as seen by the age distribution of women throughout various occupations. It is found that age-related research on women's OSH is scarce. The best results can only be obtained using customized, group-specific measures. Regarding gender-sensitive risk assessment, it is necessary to consult female workers from a range of age groups and occupations. Policies promoting gender equality should create conditions that encourage more equitable sharing of paid work, caregiving, money, and time inside households along with paid work and politics. Bridge building between Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Women OHS and in management practices connected to the protection, deterrence, and elimination of workplace sexual assault and violence against women can be a successful innovative method. The major forces for advancing the gender viewpoint in OHS may be legal compliance and the significance of external acknowledgement in CSR.

(The writer is a research student, Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand).

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