You might think that women entered the workforce relatively recently, historically speaking, but women have been working in health care and childcare for over 500 years. We've explored the risks of injury for health care workers and teachers—many of whom are women—before, but one hazard they thankfully no longer face is being accused of witchcraft.
In 16th and 17th century England, women who worked with sick people, children, and livestock were often accused of being witches when the people or animals in their care died. Talk about a workplace hazard!
We've come a long way from burning people at the stake, but according to the National Safety Council, women still face more workplace dangers than men and suffer certain kinds of injuries at a much higher rate. Why is this?
It's Still About the Kind of Work Women Do
Just like in the 1500s, women are affected by the work they usually do. Musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) are the most common workplace injuries today, and women do jobs that put them at a higher risk for MSDs. Whether they are in prolonged static postures as office workers, engaging in repetitive hand and arm movements in retail, or doing non-ergonomic lifting in health care, they are suffering frequent injuries.
Additional on-the-job risks to women include the following.
Physical Demands and Ergonomics
Jobs that require heavy lifting, strenuous physical activity, or awkward postures are more likely to cause injuries. Female workers in manufacturing, agriculture, or construction often face ergonomic challenges that can lead to musculoskeletal issues and strains.
Certain industries, like health care, education, and social services, expose female workers to a higher risk of workplace violence. This can include verbal or physical abuse from students, clients, or patients, jeopardizing the employee's physical and mental well-being.
Slips, Trips, and Falls
Women, particularly in retail and service industries, are more prone to slip and fall accidents due to the tasks they are assigned, like cleaning or attending to customers. These incidents can lead to sprains, fractures, and other injuries.
Repetitive Motion Injuries
Jobs that entail repetitive tasks, like data entry or assembly line work, can result in repetitive motion injuries. These are jobs that are disproportionately assigned to female workers in a range of industries, from order fulfillment centers to manufacturing.
Lack of Safety Gear and Equipment
Sometimes, personal protective equipment (PPE) may not be adequately designed or in sizes that fit women. Ill-fitting PPE can reduce its effectiveness and compromise safety.
Pregnant women face unique workplace risks, as some tasks or exposure to certain chemicals can hurt their health or the health of the unborn child. These risks clearly do not apply to men.
Breaking into Male-Dominated Fields
Worker shortages in high-demand industries such as construction and trucking mean that more women have broken into jobs traditionally held by men. Because most women don't have the same bulk and strength as most men, they are often pushed to their physical limits when doing strenuous labor and may be injured as a result.
Gender Bias and Discrimination
Gender bias can manifest from inadequate training or safety protocols for female workers to being assigned more hazardous tasks. Discrimination can discourage women from reporting workplace hazards, fearing retaliation or not being taken seriously.
Limited Representation in Leadership Roles
Women are underrepresented in leadership positions in many industries. This lack of representation can hinder the development and implementation of safety measures that consider gender-specific risks.
The Role of Workers' Comp When a Woman Is Injured on the Job
Whether your job is considered traditionally a woman's job or a man's job, if you are injured while performing work duties, you are entitled to workers' compensation benefits. It doesn't matter if the accident that caused your injuries was your fault or happened because of the inherent risks of the job; your claim for compensation should be allowed. If you are facing any blame or pushback—I hope you won't face accusations of witchcraft!—Monast Law Office is here for you.