OSHA Safety Guidelines for Women in Construction – According to a study that was submitted to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the number of women in the construction industry is growing:
“Today, nearly 60% of women aged 16 and over participate in the workforce. While women have made some gains in occupations traditionally occupied by men, construction trades remain overwhelmingly male-dominated. In 1970, when OSHA was enacted, women made up less than one percent of workers in the construction trades.”
Table I: Number of Women Workers in Construction, Selected Years, 1985-2010 (All types of employment)
Table II: Percentage of Women Workers, by Industry in 2010 (All types of employment)
In addition to the primary safety and health hazards faced by all construction workers, there are safety and health issues specific to female construction workers. These safety and health hazards in construction create barriers to women entering and remaining in this field.
OSHA Safety Guidelines for Women in Construction – Personal Protective Equipment
Many women in nontraditional jobs, such as the construction trades, have encountered improperly fitting personal protective equipment (PPE) and personal protective clothing (PPC) which may compromise their personal safety.
Personal protective equipment used by women workers should be based upon female anthropometric (body measurement) data. Women should make a point to test employer-provided PPE, and if the provided PPE is uncomfortable, or not suitable for the worker (e.g., improperly fitting or damaged from wear or defect) they should report this condition to their employer for a suitable replacement.
PPE must fit properly so that it can effectively protect the employee from the hazard for which it was designed. Today there has been tremendous progress in the availability of PPE for women. The International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) reports that many employers now provide a full range of sizes for PPE. ISEA lists manufacturers who offer safety equipment in various sizes that is appropriate for women in construction.
Other Related Factors Include:
- Limited employer knowledge in how to obtain health and safety products specifically, designed for females working in non-traditional jobs, and
- Limited availability of a full range of stock and sizes of PPE, at the retail/wholesale/distributor levels for health and safety product lines designed for women workers.
- Providing Safety and health Protection for a Diverse Construction Workforce: Issues and Ideas. NIOSH/CDC, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication 99-140, 5 pages (1999).
Sanitary Facilities at the Construction Site
OSHA’s Sanitation standard, 29 CFR 1926.51 requires employers to provide accessible sanitary facilities for ALL personnel and to ensure that these facilities are maintained in an appropriately, clean and sanitary condition.
Access to sanitary facilities can be challenging on some construction sites. Temporary facilities are usually unisex, and often not very well maintained or overused. As a result, women report that they avoid drinking water on the job, risking heat stress and other health problems because of the lack of appropriate facilities available to them.
Scientific literature indicates that holding urine in the bladder for more than one hour, after experiencing the urge to urinate, leads to a higher incidence of urinary tract infections. Thus, due to the lack of available sanitary facilities, female workers experience a higher incidence of bladder and kidney infections.
Inadequate facilities can result not only in urinary tract infections, but may also result in other diseases from unavoidable contact with a contaminated toilet seat. If you find yourself in this predicament, inform your supervisor or employer. Some possible solutions include: requesting additional toilet facilities, sex designated facilities, and facilities with internal and external locking systems. Do not feel embarrassed by this issue. Many men complain about this problem as well. Your action will benefit both genders.
1 Source for Table I – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2010 and Previous Years Current Population Survey. Calculations by CPWR Data Center. (CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training, produced with support from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, grant number OH009762). (April 2013). The Construction Chart Book, The U.S. Construction Industry and Its Workers, Chapter 20. (PDF)
2 Source for Table II – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2010 Current Population Survey. Calculations by CPWR Data Center. (CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training, produced with support from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, grant number OH009762). (April, 2013). The Construction Chart Book, The U.S. Construction Industry and Its Workers, Chapter 20. (PDF)
3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. April, 2012. Workplace Safety and Health Topics, Women’s Safety and Health Issues at Work.
OmegaSafetyTraining.com – Omega Safety Training provides both Instructor-Led and Online Training for OSHA’s Fall Protection Training. These courses were designed to cover the current safety training requirements found in the OSHA standard:
Related Articles, Publications, and Videos
- OSHA’s Fall Prevention Campaign
- National Safety Stand-Down Campaign
- OSHA Safety Guidelines in Construction for Women