Working Women At High Risk From Work Stress, MSDs

New reports by NIOSH conclude that women face high risk from job-related stress, musculoskeletal injuries, violence and other hazards of the modern workplace.

Working women compose an increasingly large proportion of the U.S. workforce. They also face high risk from job-related stress, musculoskeletal injuries, violence and other hazards of the modern workplace, new reports by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) concluded.

NIOSH researchers describe their findings in two articles and an editorial in the Spring 2000 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Women''s Association.

The editorial provides an overview of occupational health and safety hazards for working women. One of the articles addresses work stress and women. The other article, co-written by authors from NIOSH and two other organizations, examines health and safety concerns for working women in construction.

"Many factors heighten certain risks of work-related injury, illness, and death for female workers," said NIOSH Director Linda Rosenstock. "It is important to recognize these hazards and to keep all workers, women and men alike, safe on the job."

Women currently make up almost half of the general U.S. workforce. In the growing health care industry, where a complex range of hazards exists, including latex allergy, back injuries and needlestick injuries, about 80 percent of the workforce is female, said NIOSH.

Increasingly, women are moving into occupations once held exclusively by men, such as the construction trade.

In such instances, physiological differences between women and men can translate into occupational hazards, as when women operate equipment designed for male workers of larger stature, reported NIOSH.

Reports showed that women workers are at disproportionately high risk from musculoskeletal injuries on the job, suffering 63 percent of all work-related repetitive motion injuries.

The reports also noted other hazards specific to women such as radiation, glycol ethers, lead and strenuous physical labor that can affect women''s reproductive health.

Homicide is the leading cause of job-related death for women, and women are at increased risk of non-fatal assault, according to reports.

Copies of these reports or other information on the health and safety of working women can be found at www.cdc.gov/niosh.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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