Injuries To Women In Construction
The construction industry continues to be a male-dominated field. However, women have slowly become more visible in the construction trades. According to a 2018 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up about nine percent of construction industry employees. The number of female construction workers grew by around 81 percent between 1985 and 2007, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The Center for Construction Research and Training predicts that the overall number of women employees in the U.S. will increase by more than 5 million between 2010 and 2020, with many advocacy groups working to promote economic and personal security for women in historically male-dominated fields.
With an increased presence on road construction crews, at building sites and among construction firm owners, women are beginning to articulate their specific needs, especially when it comes to preventing injuries and implementing workplace safety rules that protect both women and men.
In 2018, the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) renewed their partnership in the Alliance Program. Through the Alliance Program, OSHA works with various worker groups to implement plans that focus on:
- Raising awareness of OSHA’s rules and enforcement initiatives
- Increasing outreach and communication
- Promoting education and training
NAWIC will be working in support of OSHA’s Safe + Sound Campaign, which aims to protect the health and safety of female construction workers. The joint initiative will provide NAWIC members with access to free webinars, educational content, and local events that emphasize workplace safety health programs.
Areas of Concern for Women in the Construction Industry
Through the Alliance Program, NAWIC and OSHA will focus on certain hazards in the construction industry that are specific to women. Major concerns include but are not limited to:
- Personal protective equipment (PPE) that is sized appropriately for women. Women usually have smaller heads, hands and feet than men, and finding equipment that actually provides the intended protection can be difficult. Moreover, if the equipment does not fit properly, not only does it fail to provide protection, but workers may be reluctant to use it, increasing the risk of injury. One size does not fit all.
- Sanitation facility initiatives. When bathroom facilities are not clean, well-lit, and in a safe location, women may avoid using them and therefore may limit water intake, resulting in an increased chance of heatstroke and bladder or urinary tract infections. Recommendations include providing separate bathrooms or portable toilets for male and female workers, hand sanitizer, well-lit areas for bathroom use at night and regular cleaning of facilities.
- Properly-sized tools and equipment. Using tools and equipment designed for larger male workers can force smaller female workers to exert additional force. The result can be increased risk of serious ergonomic injuries that create back, neck and leg problems.
- Hostile work environment. Workers who find their co-workers threatening or unhelpful are less likely to request assistance from them. This increases the likelihood of injury when trying to perform a task–such as lifting–that could be difficult for someone with less upper body strength. Another consequence can be assault or even homicide, which women are particularly vulnerable to, given the animosity with which some men have greeted the addition of female employees to work sites.
Common Injuries Suffered by Women in the Construction Industry
According to a 2000 report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), women suffer more motor vehicle injuries and fatalities than their male counterparts, likely because women often work as flaggers at road construction sites. This type of job leaves workers particularly vulnerable to injury and death caused by speeding vehicles and road rage. Of women killed in motor vehicle accidents while working, 30 percent of them were flaggers, according to the NIOSH study titled “Women working in construction: risks and rewards.”
The same report also showed that female construction workers are more likely to be injured or killed as a result of harassment or assault at worksites. Although precise data is unavailable, the OSHA web page “Women in Construction” indicates that women in the field are more vulnerable than men to injury as a result of missing or improperly fitted PPE, incorrectly sized tools and other equipment. For example, gloves that are too big can be caught in machinery and boots that are too long can cause trips, slips and falls.
Keeping female employees safe and injury-free while working construction is everyone’s responsibility – male and female workers, labor unions, construction company owners and agencies focused on protecting the health and safety of all workers. Women have come a long way when it comes to working in traditionally male-dominated fields, but we must take steps to ensure that those fields are as safe for them as they are for their male colleagues.
If you were injured while working construction in New York, an attorney may be able to help you obtain compensation. The attorneys at Block O’Toole & Murphy have a proven track record of fighting for workers’ rights. Notable results include:
- $11,500,000 settlement for a worker who suffered severe wrist injuries after working with a defective saw
- $11,000,000 settlement for a masonry foreman that fell three stories to the ground after stepping on an unsecured cover placed over a hole in the floor
- $7,300,000 settlement for a construction worker who suffered an arm amputation after a support column collapsed resulting in a 10,000 pound steel beam falling onto him
- $6,500,000 settlement for a union mechanic who suffered severe injuries after a catwalk collapsed, causing him to fall 20 feet to the surface below