Safety and Health Risks of Working Women Are Underestimated

A new report from the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work examines gender differences in workplace injury and illnesses and implications for prevention and finds that the traditional prevention approach can underestimate work-related risks to women.

"Gender Issues in Safety and Health - A Review" examines gender differences in workplace injury and illness, gaps in knowledge and the implications for improving risk prevention. It shows how the design of work, its organization and equipment are often based on the model of the "average" man, although the principle of matching work to workers is enshrined in EU legislation.

In general, the report found that women suffer more from work-related stress, infectious diseases, upper limb disorders, skin diseases, asthma and allergies, while men suffer more from accidents, back pain and hearing loss.

"Improving the quality of women's work is a fundamental part of achieving the European Union's goal to significantly increase the participation of women in employment," said Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou. "This report shows how important it is to consider gender in risk prevention and include occupational health and safety in gender equality activities in order to improve the prevention of work related risks for both men and women."

Recommendations from the report include the promotion and facilitation of a gender-sensitive approach in research, policy and prevention practices to help ensure effective prevention and avoid gender bias in occupational safety and health.

Hans-Horst Konkolewsky, the director of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, noted the study documents that the traditional gender-neutral approach to prevention "can result in underestimation and even negligence of the real risks, especially to the health of women. Risk assessment and prevention need to be more gender sensitive and in general take into consideration the ever increasing diversity of the European workforce."

Coinciding with the release of the report, the Agency has also launched a web page on gender and occupational safety and health, providing links to a wide variety of resources from sources worldwide. The information can be found at gender.osh.eu.int.

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