An Oxford University study concludes the classification of night work as a cause of breast cancer ‘is no longer justified’. Cancer Research UK says women should be ‘reassured’. But Hazards discovered the research may have got it seriously wrong, with devastating consequences for prevention.
Hazards 136, October-December 2016
Unions work best when they represent everyone in the workplace. And they are at their most effective when grassroots union safety reps reflect the make-up of that workforce - and that means more women safety reps at work.
Hazards women reps pages • Poster
Women’s work Too many assumptions about the nature of ‘women’s work’ combined with too little attention to the real risks means the hazards of women’s jobs may be far less likely to get resolved.
Hazards 101, January-March 2008 [pdf] • See the full TUC Checklist
Work's worse for women US government research shows women are at greater risk from many workplace hazards, and examines evidence on "working women and stress" and "women in construction". Another study shows women facing high work demands, low control and low social support are at the greatest risk of ill-health.
Hazards 71 July-September 2000 [pdf]• Also: Providing health and safety protection for a diverse construction workforce: Issues and ideas, NIOSH
Women hurt at work Ever see a sign saying "Danger! Women at work"? Ever wonder why not? Well, it is not because women do not do the 3D - dirty, difficult and dangerous - jobs. Infact for many modern work hazards it is often women facing more of the risk. Hazards guide and resources on a "gender sensitive" health and safety approach.
Hazards 67, July-September 1999 [pdf] or html version
Women under strain
Men do heavy, dangerous work, women do light, safe work - so it's men that are at risk of musculoskeletal disorders. Nothing could be further from the truth. more
WHO gender and occupational health webpages
Women primary victims of safety negligence at work Although invisible in official statistics on work-related accidents and illnesses, women are more likely to be victims of poor safety standards at work, says the Brussels-based International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU).
ICFTU Online • ICFTU Online: Health and safety - women pay dearly
Older women's health and safety ignored A new TUC report says the health and safety of twelve million women is being ignored. The Health and Work of Older Women: a neglected issue, says that older women work longer hours than younger women, have lower status jobs and have a higher chance of developing bad backs and broken bones. It sets out an agenda for action by government, employers, unions and researchers. News release
TUC resources on women's health and safety List of TUC resources referring to women's occupational health and safety TUC safety webpages
TUC resources on gender and occupational safety and health TUC has reconvened its Women’s Health and Safety Working Group. The Group is focusing on a gender-sensitive approach to occupational health and safety and ensuring equal rights to protection for all workers. TUC GOSH page
Women, work and health Gender sensitive health and safety - a February 2001 report of a TUC symposium on research into women's health and safety. TUC safety webpages
A woman's work is never safe This TUC report highlights some of the occupational hazards unique to women due to physiological and social differences between the sexes, and the way that women's concentration in certain occupations leads to some health and safety hazards having a much greater impact on women. TUC safety webpages
Women's health and safety: putting back strain on the map The TUC wants to see women workers use their own experiences to demand better standards of health and safety from their employers. Women's jobs can be just as back-breaking as men's, and this report demonstrates that we have only just begun to address this huge health problem. TUC safety webpages
UNISON women's health and safety guidance This guide for health and safety representatives from UK public service union UNISON should be used to ensure that employers consider women staff when developing any health and safety initiatives, such as carrying out risk assessments, planning new systems of work or introducing work equipment or personal protective equipment. It can also be used to start raising awareness of women's health and safety concerns among members.
UNISON guide [pdf] • Women at work [pdf]
European trade union website
The European Trade Union Confederation's safety research arm, HESA, has pulled together detailed resources and news on women's health and safety
HESA women's health and safety webpages
ITF Women's campaign An International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) women's campaign includes a call for for measures to address safety problems and bullying at work. Campaign page
NIOSH women's safety and health at work webpages
As the only US federal agency mandated to conduct research to prevent injuries and illnesses in the workplace, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has an expanding research program to address the occupational safety and health needs of working women. These pages contain information on working women, the hazards they may face, and NIOSH research in areas of particular concern to women.
NIOSH women's health and safety webpages • NIOSH women's health and safety at work factsheet
Occupational safety gender gap
Ellen Rosskam explains how an occupational safety, health and environment (OSHE) training programme is helping women find ways to expand personal possibilities and develop creative health promotion strategies for trade unions and communities.
Women work to close the "occupational safety gender gap"
Women and men do different jobs, so face different risk factors for work-related mental illness A study in the International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health identified several occupational risk indicators for poor mental health among women, especially sub-clinical depression and high alcohol consumption. Occupational factors such as shift work, job strain, no education at the employer's expense, low occupational pride, low stimulation at work and poor social support were related to poor mental health among women.
International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, Volume 75, Number 4, May 2002
Global: We are all sickened by inequality at work
Whether it is a gaping gulf in pay, job insecurity or job discrimination based on your class, gender or race, a divided workplace is bad for your health, a top union official has warned. In a commentary ahead of International Workers’ Memorial Day on 28 April, Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the global union body ITUC, said who lives and who dies at work is not an accident of chance.
Face it. We are all sickened by inequality at work, editorial by ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow, Hazards online, April 2017.
Unsafe and unfair – discrimination on the job hurts us all, ITUC briefing for International Workers’ Memorial Day, 28 April 2017.
TUC Workers’ Memorial Day 2017 events listing. Risks 795. 8 April 2017
Britain: Unions join forces to fight abuse at work
Collective bargaining from trade unions can play a key role in tackling violence against women, campaigners have said, but they add the government must also take action. Delegates at the TUC women’s conference heard how Britain has some of the highest levels of workplace violence against women in Europe.
Speech by TUC head Frances O’Grady to the TUC women’s conference. Morning Star. TUC guide to reporting workplace violence. Risks 792. 18 March 2017
Britain: MPs 'shocked' by women's dress code stories
An inquiry into work dress codes has exposed “widespread discrimination” against women, MPs have said. The investigation was prompted by a petition, being debated by MPs, that called for a ban on requiring women to wear high heels at work.
House of Commons debate on Workplace Dress Codes (High Heels), 6 March 2017 – watch the debate, read the transcript and see the petition. BBC News Online. ITV News. Morning Star. Risks 791. 11 March 2017
Britain: Heavy work and shifts make it harder to get pregnant
Being employed as a shift worker or in a physically demanding job could make it harder for a woman to get pregnant, a new study has concluded. Scientists found working outside of normal office hours or having a strenuous job may lower a woman’s chances of conceiving via IVF.
Lidia Mínguez-Alarcón, Irene Souter, Paige L Williams and others. Occupational factors and markers of ovarian reserve and response among women at a fertility centre, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, published Online First, 6 February 2017. London Evening Standard. Risks 788. 18 February 2017
Britain: Asbestos on husband’s overalls led to wife’s deadly cancer
A retired chef died as a result of an ‘industrial disease’ caused by exposure to asbestos on her mechanic husband’s work clothes, an inquest has concluded. Jill Moore of Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire died of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma aged 71 on 11 November 2016.
East Anglian Daily Times. Newmarket Journal. The Mirror. Risks 788. 18 February 2017
Britain: Pregnancy discrimination plans don’t go far enough
Government plans to address discrimination against pregnant women at work don’t go far enough, the TUC has said. The union body was commenting on the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy response to an August 2016 report from the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee on pregnancy and maternity discrimination in the workplace… TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson said it was “pretty scandalous” that the government had rejected the committee’s call for an improved role for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) “in ensuring compliance and research into how to encourage greater enforcement.”
TUC news release. TUC Stronger Unions blog. Department for Business news release. Risk 786. 4 February 2017
Britain: Bosses need to sharpen up on work dress
Too many employers are ‘stuck in the past’ on workplace dress codes, the TUC has said. The union body was commenting after a report on high heels and workplace dress codes was published this week by two committees of MPs, which said the government must enforce the law properly to ban sexist dress rules at work that discriminate against women.
Petitions Committee and Women and Equalities Committee news release and High Heels and Workplace Dress Codes – summary, conclusions and recommendations and full report, 25 January 2017. TUC news release. The Guardian. BBC News Online. Risks 785. 28 January 2017
Global: Addressing occupational violence affecting women
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has published a report putting a ‘gender lens’ on the issue of violence prevention in the workplace. The report summary says it “reviews the international literature and a selection of regulatory instruments with respect to occupational violence - work-related violence involving incidents in which a person is physically, psychologically or sexually assaulted, threatened, harassed, bullied or mobbed in circumstances relating to their work.”
Addressing occupational violence: An overview of conceptual and policy considerations viewed through a gender lens, ILO, November 2016. Risks 779. 3 December 2016
Global: Ending violence against women at work
Unions are putting the issue of violence against women at work high on their safety agenda. IndustriALL assistant general secretary Jenny Holdcroft said: “More trade unions need to adopt strong policies against violence in the workplace, which can be used to educate all their members about what is and what is not acceptable treatment of women.”
IndustriALL news release. ITUC statement and campaign for an ILO Convention to stop gender-based violence at work. ITUC gender-based violence at work campaign webpage and campaign guide. Risks 779. 3 December 2016
Britain: Why are preventable breast cancer risks ignored?
Breast Cancer Awareness Month has provided a welcome focus on a condition that has risen sharply over the last 40 years, but campaigners are concerned the government and breast cancer charities are resolutely ignoring the host of preventable occupational and environmental causes of the condition. To address this, campaign group From Pink to Prevention has produced a new ‘toolkit’ with an interactive webpage, posters and an action guide.
Alliance for Cancer Prevention news release. From Pink to Prevention news release and toolkit. Get your MP to sign Early Day Motion 588, Breast cancer and environmental and occupational toxicants. Risks 774. 29 October 2016
Britain: Safety warning on ill-fitting protective kit at sea
Ill-fitting personal protective equipment (PPE) is putting seafarers’ health and safety at risk, the union Nautilus has warned. Nautilus council member Jessica Tyson, addressing the union’s UK conference, moved a motion warning that a lot of PPE is manufactured to traditional specifications — often meaning it is not suitable for the increasing number of female seafarers - but she stressed the issue affects all seafarers.
Nautilus news release. Risks 772. 15 October 2016
Britain: Union breastfeeding victory for working women
A landmark employment tribunal victory for two easyJet cabin crew will have wide implications for working women wishing to continue breastfeeding after their maternity leave ends, Unite has said. The union argued successfully that the budget airline had neglected health and safety procedures, despite claiming it was acting on safety grounds.
Unite news release. Risks 772. 15 October 2016
Global: Campaign against gender-based violence at work
Global trade union confederation ITUC is warning that gender-based violence is one of the most prevalent human rights violations in the world. The union body is calling for a new global standard on prevention, noting: “Trade unions are taking action to end gender-based violence at work and are campaigning for a new international labour Convention to tackle the various forms of gender-based violence that occur in the world of work,” through the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
ITUC gender-based violence at work campaign webpage. Join the campaign! Risks 771. 8 October 2016
Britain: Migrant domestic workers need more protection
Urgent changes are needed to the UK visa system to protect migrant workers from being used as domestic slaves, a union-affiliated campaign group has warned. Justice 4 Domestic Workers is calling for a better deal for foreign workers, who are employed mainly as nannies or maids in private homes.
BBC News Online. BBC1 Inside Out. Justice for Domestic Workers UK. Risks 771. 8 October 2016
Britain: Unions make a stand against sexist dress codes
‘Ridiculous’ dress codes imposed by some employers are both sexist and bad for women’s health, unions have warned. A motion from the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists (SCP) noted the issue of sexist dress codes had been a long-time concern to unions, with a requirement to wear high heels a particular bugbear.
TUC news release and report Working feet and footwear. SCP news release and motion 80 to the TUC conference. Risks 768. 17 September 2016.
Britain: Unions call for action to stop sexual harassment at work
Sexual harassment at work is a major under-reported problem in Britain’s workplaces, the TUC’s annual conference has heard. Delegates agreed unanimously an emergency motion calling for measures to stamp out sexual harassment at work after hearing two-thirds of young women had been directly affected.
Prospect news release. Usdaw news release. TUC guide to your rights on sexual harassment, union reps’ guide to addressing sexual harassment and report, Still just a bit of banter? Everyday Sexism Project and ‘shouting back’ platform. Risks 768. 17 September 2016.
Britain: MPs call for more protection for pregnant women
A committee of MPs has called for UK women to have far greater legal protection at work after a 'shocking' increase in workplace pregnancy discrimination over the past decade. Measures proposed by the Women and Equalities Committee include a system of individual risk assessments to be introduced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) by the end of the year and a straightforward mechanism to ‘compel’ employers to remedy any work-related health risks to the pregnant woman, the pregnancy or the baby.
House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee news release and report. TUC news release. BBC News Online. Risks 766. 3 September 2016.
Sri Lanka: Garment workers pay high price for cheap clothes
Garment workers toiling behind the electrified fences of Sri Lanka’s free trade zones are paying a high price for making the cheap clothes sold on the UK high street. UK-based charity War on Want investigated conditions in the factories, said “despite the rhetoric from local and foreign clothing brands on their commitment to workers’ rights, the stark reality for women like Disna remains long hours, poverty pay and scant regard for safety.”
War on Want news release and Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops campaign. Risks 764. 20 August 2016
Britain: Sexual harassment is widespread and damaging at work
More than half (52 per cent) of women - and nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) of women aged 18-24 years old - report experiencing sexual harassment at work, according to a TUC-backed research. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Let’s be clear – sexual harassment is undermining, humiliating and can have a huge effect on mental health.”
TUC news release, guide to your rights on sexual harassment, union reps’ guide to addressing sexual harassment and report, Still just a bit of banter?
Everyday Sexism Project and ‘shouting back’ platform. Risks 764. 20 August 2016
Britain: It’s all about the dress – and whether it’s safe
The TUC is investigating gender-related problems associated with workplace dress codes and personal protective equipment (PPE). The TUC probe comes after reports of blatant sexism related to work clothing, including stipulations to wear high heels or lose your pay and the provision of ill-fitting, unsuitable PPE for women workers.
Women, dress codes and personal protective equipment – email case studies to the TUC health and safety department by 9 September. Risks 764. 20 August 2016
Britain: STUC women’s health and safety toolkit
The STUC says working women’s health and safety at work is a ‘major priority’ for its women’s committee, and is behind its decision to produce a tailored health and safety toolkit. The Scottish union body said its new women’s health and safety toolkit, which includes a series of checklists and detailed information on a wide-range of topics, was produced with the help of its affiliates.
STUC Women’s health and safety toolkit. Risks 762. 6 August 2016
USA: New York nail salon workers win protection
All nail salons in New York State will be required to have ventilation systems to protect manicurists and others from the potentially dangerous health effects of chemicals used in nail products, the state’s governor has announced. The new rule is among the most sweeping changes in the state’s initiative, more than a year long, to make the industry safer and more equitable for workers, many of whom say they suffer ill-health effects as a result of their jobs.
Governor Andrew M Cuomo news release. NY Healthy Nail Salons Coalition news release. New York Times. Risks 761. 30 July 2016
Britain: Women report protective equipment is a bad fit
Women are being forced to use ill-fitting personal protective equipment at work causing discomfort and putting their safety at risk, according to a Prospect survey. Just 29 per cent of the women who took part in the union study reported that the PPE they wear at work was designed for women.
Prospect news release. TUC Touchstone blog. Risks 757. 2 July 2016
Britain: MPs to investigate high heels at work
A call for it to be made illegal for a company to compel women to wear high heels at work is to be investigated by MPs. Over 140,000 people signed a petition to the government calling for the move after temp worker Nicola Thorp, 27, was sent home without pay after refusing to change into high heels.
High heels forum. Petition - Make it illegal for a company to require women to wear high heels at work. On twitter: #heelsatworkinquiry Risks 755. 18 June 2016
Britain: Dressing down for high heels required firm
A firm’s decision to send home a London receptionist after she refused to wear high heels has attracted widespread criticism. TUC women’s equality officer, Scarlet Harris, commented: “From a health and safety perspective, heels are bad for feet, joints and back,” adding: “The TUC even has an excellent guide on footwear at work which states unequivocally that dress codes which require women to wear heels are sexist – it’s not often you find a health and safety guide for reps calling out sexism.”
TUC Touchstone blog. Working feet and footwear, TUC guide. More on the hazards of standing at work. Background: Linder M and Salzman CL. A history of medical scientists and high heels, International Journal of Health Services, volume 28, number 2, pages 201-225, 1998. BBC News Online and BBC News Magazine.
Sign the petition: Make it illegal for a company to require women to wear high heels at work. Risks 751. 21 May 2016
Britain: Women and protective equipment - one size doesn’t fit all
Specialists’ union Prospect and TUC are among the organisations behind a new initiative to discover issues arising from provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) to women at work. “We are keen to learn whether the provision of PPE for women has improved in recent years; to identify good practice and to highlight any continuing areas of concern,” they say.
Women’s PPE survey: Does one size fit all? The closing date is 3 June. Risks 751. 21 May 2016
Britain: Have you experienced sexual harassment at work?
Recent TUC polling indicates that sexual harassment is still rife in many workplaces. As part of its project on sexual harassment in the workplace, the TUC would now like to hear about your experiences of sexual harassment. It has prepared a short online survey where you can describe your experience. The information you share will be treated in confidence and the survey can be completed anonymously.
TUC news alert. Take the survey now. Risks 747. 23 April 2016
Britain: Action call on pregnancy discrimination ‘disgrace’
The TUC has demanded immediate government action after a report revealed over threequarters of working mothers had experienced pregnancy discrimination. The union body’s call came in response to a report published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which also revealed “4 per cent of mothers reported they left their job as a result of health and safety risks which were not resolved; if scaled up to the general population this could affect 21,000 mothers a year.”
EHRC news release. TUC news release. Risks 745. 9 April 2016
Britain: Don’t treat women like skivers, period
The decision by a Bristol company to implement a ‘period policy’, including the option for women to take time off has been met with a note of caution from the TUC. TUC women’s equality officer Scarlet Harris said: “Instead of menstrual leave policies, how about employers and government stop perpetuating the myth that workers on sick leave are workshy skivers?”
TUC Touchstone blog. The Guardian. The Independent. Risks 742. 12 March 2016
Global: Unilever and unions in harassment agreement
Global soaps-to-snacks manufacturer Unilever has joined IndustriALL and IUF, the international trade unions representing the company’s union workforce, in a joint commitment to prevent sexual harassment in its workplaces worldwide.
IUF and IndustriALL news releases and joint statement. Risks 737. 6 February 2016
Global: Survey identifies issues facing women seafarers
Seafarers’ union Nautilus is to seek better tailored guidance and action to address health problems faced by women seafarers. The union’s commitment follows the publication of the findings of a large scale international survey of the health concerns of women working at sea that found the problems encountered mirror those of their male counterparts, with back and joint pain, and stress being the most commonly reported health concerns.
Nautilus news release. Nautilus Telegraph. Risks 719. 12 September 2015
Europe: Work risks to women go ignored
Risks to women at work are under-estimated, under-researched and women continue to suffer as a result. This was a conclusion of a conference on women’s health and work, organised by the European trade union research body ETUI from 4 to 6 March in Brussels.
ETUI news report and video presentations. Risks 694. 14 March 2015.
Britain: The menopause is a workplace health issue
The menopause is an overlooked workplace health and safety issue, teaching union NUT has said. ‘Working through the menopause’ notes it is “important to recognise that the menopause is an occupational health issue for women teachers, as well as being an equality issue.”
NUT news release and Working through the menopause: Guidance for members in England and Wales.
Supporting women through the menopause: A TUC guide for union representatives. Risks 694. 14 March 2015.
Britain: Employers stuck in a pregnancy ‘time warp’
The attitude of many employers to the protection of pregnant women at work is decades behind the times, a new report from the TUC has concluded. The union body says despite 40 years of protective legislation, the sacking, bullying and sidelining of expectant mothers remains commonplace.
TUC news release and full report, The Pregnancy Test: Ending discrimination at work for new mothers • Risks 683 • 6 December 2014
USA: Walmart told to ‘Respect the Bump’
Courageous current and former Walmart workers are calling on the mega retailer to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers. The ‘Respect the Bump’ campaigners want improvements including lighter duties where medically necessary and being able to drink water or sit down while at work.
AFL-CIO Now blog • Black Friday protests • Respect the Bump • Risks 682 • 29 November 2014
Britain: Affected by pregnancy discrimination?
As part of a wider project on discrimination against pregnant women and women on maternity leave, the TUC is keen to hear from women who have been treated unfavourably while pregnant, on maternity leave, or on return to work. A TUC survey, which is entirely anonymous, covers employment and health and safety issues including if you were “made to do work that was difficult or hazardous because of your pregnancy”.
TUC briefing and online survey • Risks 654 • 17 May 2014
USA: Walmart cagey on pregnant workers concessions
Walmart has improved its workplace pregnancy policies – but is saying the move has nothing to do a series of legal challenges. OUR Walmart, the union-backed group pressing for better working conditions at the US multinational, and a number of legal groups take a different view.
Washington Post • Businessweek • Organisation United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) facebook page • UFCW blog • Risks 650 • 12 April 2014
Norway: Landmark win on mercury at work
Health workers exposed to mercury were harmed and should be compensated, Norway’s top court has ruled. Former dental nurse Bertha Regine Serigstad took the union-backed case against her government employer all the way to Norway’s Supreme Court.
PSI news report • Risks 638 • 18 January 2013
Britain: Call for ‘zero tolerance’ of sexual harassment
Employers must adopt a zero tolerance approach to sexual harassment, the TUC has said. The union body was speaking out after research published by employment law firm Slater & Gordon found that six in ten working women have had a male colleague behave ‘inappropriately’ towards them.
TUC news release • Slater & Gordon news release • Risks 628 • 26 October 2013
Germany: Workplace health ‘gender gap’ exposed
A ‘gender gap’ in health and safety at work has been identified in Germany. The initial analysis of a 2012 survey found women more often than men suffer a wide range of work-related complaints. The survey was conducted by the Federal Institute for Vocational Training (BIBB) in cooperation with the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA).
ETUI news report • TUC women and health and safety webpages • Risks 629 • 2 November 2013
USA: Chemical exposure at work poses worst pregnancy risk
The evidence that exposure to chemicals in pregnancy leads to adverse reproductive and developmental health outcomes is “sufficiently robust,” medical experts have warned, with the risks highest for those exposed at work. A report from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) urges doctors to push for stricter policies to better identify and reduce exposure to chemicals that prove truly risky.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists committee opinion, number 575, October 2013 • Risks 624 • 28 September 2013
Britain: Top pregnancy docs say safety first with chemicals
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has concluded pregnant women may want to “play it safe” and avoid chemicals found in many common industrial and household products. RCOG says its paper on the issue is informing women and filling a void - until now, there has been no official advice for pregnant and breastfeeding women to turn to.
RCOG news release and full report, Chemical exposures during pregnancy: Dealing with potential, but unproven, risks to child health, RCOG, June 2013. BBC News Online • Risks 608 • 8 June 2013
Britain: Night shift linked to ovarian cancer
Working night shifts may increase the risk of ovarian cancer, research suggests. A study of more than 3,000 women found that working nights increased the risk of early-stage cancer by 49 per cent compared with doing normal office hours.
Parveen Bhatti and others. Nightshift work and risk of ovarian cancer, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, volume 50, pages 231-237, 2013 [abstract] • BBC News Online • Risks 598 • 23 March 2013
Global: ‘Toxic soup’ of chemicals causes breast cancer
Working in a “toxic soup” of chemicals can double a woman's risk of developing breast cancer, new research suggests. High risk jobs include those in agriculture, plastics, food packaging, metal manufacture and the bar and gambling industry, according to the University of Stirling study.
Brophy JT, Keith MM, Watterson A and others. Breast cancer risk in relation to occupations with exposure to carcinogens and endocrine disruptors: a Canadian case-control study, Environmental Health, 11:87, 19 November 2012. Stirling University news release • Center for Public Integrity article • BBC News Online • Huffington Post • Fox News • Daily Mail • Manufacturing Weekly • Risks 583 • 24 November 2012
Britain: Women’s health and safety is neglected
Health and safety issues affecting women are either ignored, under-researched or unrecognised, problems that must be addressed by unions, Unite has said. According to the union, which has just published online its negotiators’ guide to raising the issue: “Working women’s health and safety at work is a major priority for Unite.”
Women’s health, safety and well-being at work: Negotiators’ guide • Risks 576 • 6 October 2012
Britain: Women’s work gets more insecure
Falling numbers of women in full-time work and a rise in their self-employment and involuntary part-time and temporary employment has left women increasingly insecure at work, a TUC economic report reveals. TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “Replacing full-time jobs with low-paid, insecure work will drive down wages and keep this country mired in recession.”
TUC news release and Economic report: Women and work • Hazards insecure work webpages • Risks 574 • 22 September 2012
Global: Work can be damaging in late pregnancy
Working after eight months of pregnancy could be bad for your baby, according to a new study. Women who worked after they were eight months pregnant had babies on average around 230g (0.5lb) lighter than those who stopped work between six and eight months according to the study, published in the July edition of the Journal of Labor Economics.
Emilia Del Bono, John Ermisch, and Marco Francesconi. Intrafamily resource allocations: A dynamic structural model of birth weight, Vol. 30, No. 3, pages 657-706, July 2012 • Medical Daily • CBC News • The Guardian • Scottish Daily Record • Marie Claire • Risks 567 • 4 August 2012
Global: Standing at work is bad for a pregnancy
Standing for long periods at work while pregnant may curb the growth of the developing fetus, new research indicates. Dutch researchers, who published their findings online in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, found women who spent long periods on their feet during their pregnancy, in jobs such as sales, childcare, and teaching, had babies whose heads were an average of 1 cm (3 per cent) smaller than average at birth, implying a slower growth rate, and those who worked more than 40 hours a week had smaller babies than those who worked under 25 hours a week.
Claudia A Snijder, Teus Brand, Vincent Jaddoe, Albert Hofman, Johan P Mackenbach, Eric AP Steegers and Alex Burdorf. Physically demanding work, fetal growth and the risk of adverse birth outcomes. The Generation R Study, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 27 June 2012, Online First doi 10.1136/oemed-2011-100615. TUC working feet and footwear guide [pdf] • More on the occupational hazards of standing • Risks 562 • 30 June 2012
Britain: Why the media must protect its staff
Media organisations must ensure women journalists are safe in their work, unions have said. A motion from the journalists’ union NUJ was passed unanimously last week at the TUC women’s conference.
NUJ news release • TUC Women’s conference 2012 • Risks 548 • 24 March 2012
Global: Women journalists in danger zones
The challenges faced by women journalists working in conflict and danger zones around the world have been highlighted in a new book. The International News Safety Institute’s (INSI) 'No Woman's Land: On the Frontlines with Female Reporters' describes the risks, challenges and the emotional and physical impact of danger on newswomen around the globe.
INSI news release and video of the related panel debate • Risks 547 • 17 March 2012
Britain: Women worried about work journey
One in seven women has safety concerns about the journey to and from work, a survey by the retail union Usdaw has found. 'What's happening on your journey to work?', the report of Usdaw’s survey, says the union found women members are also twice as likely as men to feel unsafe on their journeys to and from work.
Usdaw news release, campaign materials and full What's happening on your journey to work? report • Risks 547 • 17 March 2012
Britain: Women still treated unfairly on site
Half of women working on building sites believe they are treated unfairly at work because of their gender, a survey by the construction union UCATT has found. However, safety was one area where conditions for women construction workers appeared to be improving, the survey found. More than 7 in 10 respondents (71 per cent) reported that sufficient attention is given to health safety and welfare facilities.
UCATT news release • Risks 547 • 17 March 2012
USA: Miscarriages in nurses linked to work exposures
Nurses who worked with chemotherapy drugs or sterilising chemicals were twice as likely to have a miscarriage as their colleagues who didn't handle these materials, a US study has found. Nurses who gave patients x-rays had a slightly elevated risk of miscarriage too, about 30 per cent higher than nurses who didn't work with x-rays; and nurses who handled sterilising agents, such as ethylene oxide or formaldehyde, more than an hour a day also had a doubled risk of miscarriage, but only during the second trimester. Christina C Lawson and others. Occupational exposures among nurses and risk of spontaneous abortion, American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, published online ahead of print, 30 December 2011 • MedlinePlus • Mother Nature Network • Risks 540 • 28 January 2011
Britain: Bid to get more women safety reps
Safety enforcers have joined with unions to encourage more women to become workplace health and safety reps. ‘Help make your workplace safer’, a leaflet published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and backed by rail safety regulator ORR, the TUC and individual unions, notes: “European research suggests that women are under-represented in the health and safety decision-making process. In particular, more women are needed to be safety representatives.”
Help make your workplace safer leaflet [pdf] • TUC safety reps webpages. HSE worker involvement and HSE health and safety representatives webpages • Risks 510 • 18 June 2011
USA: Union protection against sex assaults
A hotel worker who spoke out after an alleged serious sexual assault by former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn may have been able to do so because she was protected by union membership. The 32-year-old housekeeper, originally from Guinea, was employed at New York’s Sofitel Hotel, where staff are represented by the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council.
New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council editorial • In These Times • Alternet • IPS News • New York Times • Risks 508 • 4 June 2011
Britain: BA stops pay of pregnant cabin crew
British Airways (BA) is throwing safety and equality law out the window by denying pay to some pregnant cabin crew who can no longer perform their normal duties, the union Unite has indicated. The union says cabin crew members who are pregnant and live too far from Heathrow or Gatwick to travel there to perform ground duties, “will now be forced to take unpaid leave by the airline.”
Unite news release • Risks 498 • 19 March 2011
Britain: Call for firms to support menopausal women
The menopause is an important occupational health issue, the TUC has said, and is calling on employers to provide more support at work. The union body has published new guidance on how employers and union reps can work together to support women through the menopause at work.
TUC news release and Supporting women through the menopause report [pdf] • BOHRF report [pdf] and guide for managers [pdf] • Personnel Today • Risks 497 • 12 March 2011
USA: Firefighter wins breast cancer payout
A Las Vegas firefighter has been told by the Nevada Supreme Court she is entitled to workers' compensation benefits under the presumption that she developed breast cancer through exposure to carcinogens at work.
City of Las Vegas v Robin Lawson, Nevada Supreme Court [pdf] • Courthouse News Service • Allgov.com • Risks 489 • 15 January 2011
Britain: Women and health and safety seminar, 3 February
A TUC seminar on the topic of ‘women and health and safety’ will take place at its London HQ on Thursday 3 February 2011. The half day event is aimed at union officers and workplace reps with responsibility for health and safety, equality and women’s rights in the workplace, or any union researchers or officers with an interest in gender and occupational health.
Women and health and safety seminar, TUC, Congress House, 3 February 2011. To express an interest in attending or to get further details, email TUC • Risks 489 • 15 January 2011
Britain: RAF flew in the face of pregnancy law
The Royal Air Force (RAF) ignored its risk assessment duties and created an “offensive environment” for an officer who was denied the right to stay in her job when she became pregnant. A tribunal found she had faced discrimination and its recommendations included calling on the Ministry of Defence to carry out an individual risk assessment for each pregnant woman and to consider adjusting her role to enable her to remain in her post.
EHRC news release • Leigh Day and Co news release • Risks 460 • 12 June 2010
Britain: Young women 'face work stress risk'
Stress at work can greatly raise the risk of heart disease for women under 50, a study of more than 12,000 nurses suggests. The study, published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, concludes work pressure has a greater effect on young women than those in their 50s and 60s.
Yrsa Andersen Hundrup and others. Psychosocial work environment and risk of ischaemic heart disease in women: the Danish Nurse Cohort Study, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, volume 67, pages 318-322, 2010 [pdf] • BBC News Online • Risks 445 • 8 May 2010
Britain: Breast cancer link to shiftwork confirmed
Nearly 2,000 women contract breast cancer every year in the UK because they work night shifts, according to a new report. The figure, published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), is based on 2005 data and attributes 1,969 new cases of breast cancer and 555 deaths from the disease that year to shiftwork.
The Herald • The burden of occupational cancer in Great Britain, research report 800, HSE, 2010 [pdf] • While you were sleeping, Hazards magazine, number 106, Summer 2000 • Risks 445 • 8 May 2010
USA: Jobs not gender cause work’s pain
A study of workers at 50 hotels in the United States has found that women are 50 per cent more likely to be injured than men, and that Hispanic women have an injury rate two-thirds higher than their white female counterparts. The study, which will be published in January 2010 in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, said the injury rate was higher for female hotel employees because they worked disproportionately as housekeepers, which is the hotel job most likely to lead to injury.
APHA abstract • New York Times • Risks 432 • 14 November 2009
Britain: Trip led to back problems for pregnant mum
A pregnant civil servant who tripped at work and damaged her back has received £9,000 in compensation. PCS member Andrea Swales, 39, was almost five months pregnant when she tripped on a loose carpet tile at HM Revenue and Customs offices in Peterlee in July 2006.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Risks 423 • 12 September 2009
Global: Work stress increases caesarean births
Women who stop working at least a month before their baby is due are four times less likely to have a caesarean delivery because they are less tired and anxious, research has found.
Sylvia Guendelman and others. Maternity leave in the ninth month of pregnancy and birth outcomes among working women, Women’s Health Issues, volume 19, issue 1, Pages 30-37, January 2009 [abstract]
Sylvia Guendelman and others. Juggling work and breastfeeding: Effects of maternity leave and occupational characteristics, Pediatrics, volume 123: pages e38-e46, January 2009 [abstract] Sydney Morning Herald • Risks 389 • 17 January 2009
Global: Women and work hazards
A number of organisations have created new or dusted off their old materials on women and work hazards.
HSE mothers at work webpages • European Agency gender issues in health and safety at work webpages • BWI women and work hazards webpages • TUC women’s health and safety webpages • Hazards at Work women’s chapter and Hazards women and work hazards webpages • Risks 347 • 15 March 2008
Britain: TUC wants a healthy approach to gender
The TUC is asking safety reps to make sure their workplaces have a gender sensitive approach to health and safety management. TUC’s Gender and Occupational Safety and Health (G&OSH) working party has produced a checklist to help assess workplace health and safety policies and practices.
TUC summary document and checklist [also available as a pdf] • TUC women’s health and safety webpages • Hazards women and work hazards webpages • Risks 339 • 19 January 2008
Afghanistan: Women workers face deadly risks
Women working in four wool and fur factories in Afghanistan as dying as a result of the harsh, dusty work. Over 1,500 women work in the factories in Herat city, where they separate fur from goats’ hair and weave sheep’s wool without protective gloves or masks.
IRIN news • Risks 330 • 3 November 2007
Global: Mum’s job can affect the fetus
Workplace exposures in pregnancy can affect the health of the fetus with workers in blue collar jobs at greatest risk, researchers have found. The authors say the evidence suggests workplace exposures may have negative effects on fetal development, but add more research needs to be conducted on the reasons why the risk is elevated in particular occupations.
Parvez Ahmed and Jouni JK Jaakkola. Maternal occupation and adverse pregnancy outcomes: a Finnish population-based study, Occupational Medicine, volume 57, Number 6, pages 417-423, 2007 [abstract] • OHS reps, issue 123, 13 September 2007 • Risks 324 • 22 September 2007
Saudi Arabia: Migrant domestics killed by employers
The killing of two Indonesian domestic workers by their employers in Saudi Arabia highlights the Saudi government’s ongoing failure to hold employers accountable for serious abuses, campaign group Human Rights Watch has said. The brutal beatings by these employers also left two other Indonesian domestic workers critically injured.
Human Rights Watch news release • Risks 320 • 25 August 2007
USA: New Solutions special issue
The new issue of New Solutions, a US-based international journal on environmental and occupational health policy, focuses on women’s occupational health. Papers look at how policy, prejudice and practice combine to place women at risk at work and in the wider community. There are contributions from some of the top experts on workplace health and gender, including Professor Karen Messing, author of ‘One-eyed science: Occupational health and women workers.’
New Solutions, Special issue: Women's occupational health, volume 17, number 1-2, 2007 • Risks 317 • 4 August 2007
Britain: Teachers ‘victims of sexist bullies in class’
Young teachers are increasingly seen as “fair game” by some pupils for sexual harassment including touching and innuendo, according to a report from teaching union NUT. The union’s study found young female teachers in particular are frequently confronted with sexist language and bullying in school.
Risks 285 • 2 December 2006
Global: Gender equality, work and health
‘Gender equality, work and health’, a new review published by the World Health Organisation (WHO), documents the relationship between gender inequality and health and safety problems. It reviews gender issues in research, policies and programmes on work and health, and highlights some specific issues for women, including the types of jobs they do, as well as their need to reconcile the demands of work and family.
Gender equality, work and health: A review of the evidence, WHO, 2006 • Full report [pdf] • Risks 283 • 18 November 2006
Britain: Older women’s workplace health “neglected”
Too little is known about the work and health of older women, according to a new report. ‘Older women, work and health’, a research paper jointly commissioned by Help the Aged and TAEN – The Age and Employment Network - shows that few studies have explored the links between the work and health of older women despite their increased participation in the labour market.
Risks 282 • 11 November 2006
Britain: Payout for woman filmed by her boss
A woman whose boss bombarded her with love notes and who rigged up a CCTV camera to watch her at work has been awarded £16,500 compensation. Amicus member Heather Harrop, 42, became sick with stress and was forced to leave her job after she attracted the unwanted attention of Michael Richardson, 66.
Risks 280 • 28 October 2006
Sweden: Gender analysis lacking in research
Occupational medicine fails to take account of risks to women, according to a top occupational health research unit. Sonya Bylund, a researcher at Sweden’s globally respected National Institute for Working Life, said research in the field of occupational medicine is largely carried out on men, with the findings assumed to apply to women as well, adding legislation, risk assessment and measuring standards are often based on men.
Risks 279 • 21 October 2006
Global: Road transport women put safety first
Women road transport workers are “very worried” about health and safety issues, a new survey from global transport union federation ITF shows. Initial results of an ongoing study found 43 per cent of respondents “expressed the highest level of concern,” it says.
Risks 278 • 14 October 2006
Britain: Harassed woman awarded second payout
A woman made sick by sexual harassment at work has been awarded compensation. An Exeter employment tribunal this week ordered Councillor Tony Prior, the former mayor of Chard, Somerset to pay £33,697 in damages to former town clerk Sally Bing.
Risks 278 • 14 October 2006
Britain: Long hours may be worse for women
A University of Leeds, study has concluded long work hours may affect women worse than men. Research has found that women who work longer hours were more likely to smoke, take less exercise, and eat unhealthily, patterns not seen in men.
Risks 266 • 22 July 2006
Britain: Miscarriage welder wins damages
A female welder who raised safety concerns when pregnant and who went on to win a sex discrimination claim against her father's company has been awarded £7,500 for injury to feelings. Suzanne Bunning, 31, took GT Bunning of Dereham, Norfolk to an industrial tribunal after suffering a miscarriage.
Risks 265 • 15 July 2006
Britain: Waitress wins harassment payout
A waitress made ill by the sexual harassment she experienced is to be paid £124,000 in compensation for unlawful discrimination and unlawful dismissal by a leading London restaurant. The London employment tribunal heard of a culture of bullying and harassment at the kitchen of Harry's Bar in Mayfair.
Risks 251 • 8 April 2006
Britain: Campaign exposes chemical link to breast cancer
Women are being kept in the dark about the cancer risks from industrial chemicals, campaigners have warned. Public service union UNISON and the Women's Environmental Network (WEN) say their ‘Big See Challenge' will press the case for tighter controls on cancer causing chemicals.
Risks 227 • 8 October 2005
USA: Passive smoking at work linked to breast cancer
Secondhand smoke exposure has been linked conclusively to breast cancer, with half of all cases linked to workplace exposures. The Californian study found exposure to secondhand smoke increased the risk of breast cancer by 70 per cent.
Risks 215 • 16 July 2005
Britain: Women bear the brunt of back pain
Women suffer more back pain at work but are less likely to take time off, an official survey has found. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) survey also found women were less likely to tell their bosses they were in pain.
Risks 212 • 25 June 2005
Britain: Pregnant women and risk assessment
A new TUC online guide provides a detailed and practical workers’ resource on pregnancy and risk assessments. TUC says safety representatives must ensure employers fulfil their legal obligations and protect both pregnant women and those who return to work while breast-feeding.
TUC pregnancy and risk assessment briefing • Risks 203 • 23 April 2005
Britain: TUC's two step on women and work hazards
The TUC wants to know what's happening on women's health and safety in the workplace and has devised a two step plan.
Risks 198 • 12 March 2005
USA: Metalworking fluids linked to breast cancer risk
Women with jobs that involve metalworking fluids may have a higher risk of developing breast cancer, a preliminary study suggests. The new study looked at women who spent at least three years working at one of three large car manufacturing plants in the US.
Risks 196 • 26 February 2005
Sweden: Study finds work stress can give women diabetes
Women who experience stress and a lack of control over their work could be at great risk of diabetes, according to Swedish research.
Risks 195 • 19 February 2005
Europe: Health at work is an equality issue
Cutting health risks and tackling stress at work are equality issues, a European conference of service sector unions has heard. Delegates to the UNI-Europa women's Conference in Brussels heard a gender specific approach to health and safety at work is needed to avoid "gender specific distortions in occupational health and safety."
Risks 187 • 18 December 2004
Canada: Women's work worse than records show
Injury statistics do not provide a complete picture of the occupational hazards experienced by women in the workplace, according to a report in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
Institute for Work and Health newsletter PM Smith and CA Mustard. Examining the associations between physical work demands and work injury rates between men and women in Ontario, 1990-2000, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, volume 61, pages 750-756, 2004 [abstract] • Risks 185 • 4 December 2004
Global: High stress doubles risk of painful periods
High levels of stress double the risk of painful periods, according to new research. Dysmenorrhoea, or painful periods, is one of the most common gynaecological problems among women of childbearing age.
Risks 183 • 20 November 2004
Britain: Stress 'linked to miscarriages'
Stress could be linked to miscarriages, researchers have suggested. A research team led by Dr Petra Arck monitored the progress of 864 pregnant women. Blood samples were taken at the start of their pregnancies. The women also completed standard questionnaires to measure their own perceptions of the stress they felt. It was found that the 55 women who miscarried were more likely to have reported stress than women whose pregnancies continued. Dr Arck said: 'We can clearly say that stress has a major impact on pregnancy maintenance.' The research was presented to a meeting of the British Society for Endocrinology last week. The authors say their work with mice suggests giving at-risk women extra doses of the hormone progesterone could protect pregnancies.
Risks 182 • 13 November 2004
Denmark: Night shift work can be bad for pregnancies
Working a night shift can lead to longer pregnancies and lower birth weight babies, researchers have found. The researchers examined Danish statistics and concluded: "Night work may prolong the duration of pregnancy and reduce fetal growth, especially among industrial workers."
Risks 174 • 18 September 2004
Britain: Ignorant bosses put pregnant employees at risk
Lack of awareness could be putting the health and well-being of pregnant women and their unborn babies at risk, says the shopworkers' union Usdaw. And two other reports from the Equal Opportunities Commission also call for workplace health and safety action.
Risks 173 • 11 September 2004
Britain: "Frantic life syndrome" hits women workers
Working women in the UK think new technology makes their lives even more hectic, according to a new report. As a result, a growing number of career women are suffering from what has been dubbed "frantic life syndrome."
Risks 169 • 14 August 2004
Britain Expectant and new mums feeling the heat
Shopworkers' union Usdaw is warning that pregnant workers could be wilting in the face of Britain's steamy summer weather.
Risks 169 • 14 August 2004
Menopause A new TUC study reveals many women have jobs that could be making menopause-related symptoms worse, and calls on employers to provide better welfare facilities, rest breaks and a lot more forethought and understanding. [large pdf]
USA: Axing safety law left women at risk
President Bush's decision to axe an ergonomics safety law introduced in the last days of the Clinton presidency has left workers in the heavily female health care field particularly prone to injury.
Risks 160 • 12 June 2004
Britain: Don't let employers be gender blind
General union GMB is urging safety reps to raise the profile of women's health and safety within their workplaces.
Risks 147 • 13 March 2004
Women's work: Lots of risks and little work protection Women's health and safety is neglected, say unions - and something must be done about it.
Hazards 77 [pdf]
Europe: Work risks to women are neglected
Safety and health risks facing women at work tend to be underestimated and neglected, says a report from the Bilbao-based European Agency. Gender issues in safety and health - a review says its investigation found the traditional prevention approach can underestimate work-related risks to women.
European Agency news release, report and new gender website • Risks 141 • 31 January 2004
Europe: The gender workplace health gap in Europe
A new report from the European trade union safety think tank TUTB says women's issues tend to be absent from health and safety policies. It says the hazards involved are either unknown or underestimated and priorities are defined in male-dominated sectors and occupations, and recommends improvements.
Risks 140 • 24 January 2004
Global Workplace health research isn’t the fairest of them all
A gender blind approach to occupational health research is can undermine efforts to properly assess the impact of work on health. An international group of researchers, writing in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, conclude gender-sensitive practices enrich the scientific quality of research and should lead to better data and ultimately to well-targeted prevention programmes.
Karen Messing and others. Be the fairest of them all: Challenges and recommendations for the treatment of gender in occupational health research, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, vol.43 (6), pages 618-29, 2003 [abstract] Risks 120 • 23 August 2003
Five point programme for positive pregnancies
A national charity has launched a Pregnancy Accreditation Programme for UK employers. Tommy's, the baby charity, will vet employers wanting accreditation to make sure they attain five key goals: encouraging attendance at ante-natal sessions at times convenient for the pregnant worker; providing a smoke-free workplace; providing easily accessible smoke-free rest areas; providing healthy pregnancy information; and making available to all employees details of current laws and guidance on pregnancy at work.
Risks 18 • 18 September 2001
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