Health Issues that Women Face on “Men’s Jobs”
The American workforce has changed in the last half century. While men still outnumber women in the workforce, the percentage of working women has increased from 34 percent in the 1950s to 60 percent today. At the same time, the percentage of working men has reduced from 84 percent in the 50s to just about 73 percent today. In addition, women are marrying later in life, staying longer in school, delaying childbirth, getting fewer kids and in need of affordable insurance products than previously, find out more here.
However, women face different workplace health challenges compared to men. Social, cultural and economic factors also place women more at risk for injury and illness in traditionally “men’s jobs” like driving trucks. Balancing work and family obligations places additional stress on women, who have the primary responsibility for eldercare and childcare; here are some of the health issues women workers faces in traditional men’s roles.
Blood Borne Diseases
Exposure to infectious materials like blood in the workplaces places employees at risk of contracting blood borne disease. These diseases include human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis C, and hepatitis B. Working in medical labs, health care or even housekeeping is likely to increase chances of contacting blood or other body fluids.
Ergonomics, Muscle and Bone Disorders
Musculoskeletal disorders are those that affect the joints, tendons, nerves, muscles, lower back, neck, legs or arms. Such disorders may be caused or made worse due to sudden force, constant vibration, repetitious movement or awkward body positioning. On the other hand, ergonomics is a science study field that works to find solutions that enable workers stay productive, comfortable, and safe; this includes changing tools, materials, work methods or even the work environment.
Research is required to figure out why women seem to be at higher risk of getting musculoskeletal disorders than men. The disorders may be related to the physical differences between men and women.
Work structure and job stress are intertwined topics of growing concern, as levels of stress-related illnesses seem to be nearly twice as high in women as in men. Stress related to jobs like in the transportation industry, including frequent one-way charter flights, has been linked with muscle/bone disorders, heart disease, depression, and even burnout.
Some of the job conditions that lead to stress in women include heavy work demands, job insecurity, and repetitive, narrow and boring work. Other factors like work/family balance and sexual harassment have also been cited as possible stressors for women in the workplace.
Women have a much lower rate of job-related deaths than men do. However, homicide relates to about a third (27 percent) of women work-related deaths – in addition, this is considered as the second leading cause of injury death for women working. The workplace homicides are usually related to robbery and often occur in convenience or grocery stores, gasoline service stations, and drinking and eating establishments.
In addition, women are likely to face health and safety risks considering that personal protective equipment and clothing is often designed for the average-sized man. The protective function of work boots, work gloves, respirators and other equipment is reduced when they do not fit properly.
Workplace exposure to certain hazardous chemicals and substances is likely to have a role in the development of some types of cancers. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is currently carrying out studies to establish the like between women and certain cancers.
Issues in the Services Sector
In 2004, there were an estimated 29 million women working in service jobs. Such jobs include food service, insurance, finance, education, public administration, and entertainment. The year before, 2003, about half of the job-related illnesses and injuries occurred among women in service jobs, but only 20 percent of women working held these positions; the most common complaints included musculoskeletal disorders, workplace violence and injuries from falls.
Issues in Manufacturing
Some of the products processed by manufacturing workers include coal, oil, furniture, chemicals, clothes and food. Five million women were working in manufacturing in 2004, with three million of them at production level. Considering the huge range of products processed, women are at risk of exposure to dangerous chemicals, loud equipment, long working hours and physical demands.