By: Chris Pfeiffer; Team Manager of Horton Safety Consultants
Many female workers have expressed concerns about their physical and mental safety in the workplace. A National Council of Safety report revealed that women experienced 26.6 percent of workplace injuries in the transportation and warehousing industry in 2020. And across all industries, a woman was the target of 73.3 percent of all assaults reported on the job. The facts speak for themselves: it’s time to prioritize women’s safety in the workplace.
Employers across all industries need to create a safe environment that focuses on accepting and defending women. In this article, we will discuss three main areas of concern for women and what best practices employers can implement to help them feel protected.
Concern #1: Travel
All business travelers face risks such as transportation accidents, natural disasters and terrorism – but women are more likely to face sexual assault, theft and harassment.
These issues can impact women in various industries, but women’s safety hits particularly close to home in the trucking industry (with women making up approximately 10 percent of over-the-road truck drivers in the United States). Some women will even go to the lengths to eat, shower and fuel up at one truck stop and then sleep at a different stop to hide the fact that they are traveling alone.
It is important for women to be aware of their environment and surroundings and listen to their intuition if a situation feels wrong. But there are also best practices that companies can implement to help women feel safe. Examples include but are not limited to:
- Briefing women on the potential cultural, behavioral, apparel and religious restrictions they could face in certain countries
- Provide travel resources, including contact information for the U.S. Department of State, local embassies, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and telemedicine providers
- Secure lodging with an emphasis on safety, offering features such as 24-hour security, double door locks, well-lit public spaces and limited ground-floor access
- Implement technology allowing travel managers to know where their travelers are in the world, so they can quickly contact them in the event of an emergency
Concern #2: Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
In many cases, women in the workforce have ill-fitting PPE – and it’s been this way for decades. Instead of providing properly-fitted women’s sizes, some employers simply offer them smaller men’s sizes – assuming that all women are petite and would fit into those sizes.
Over the years, manufacturers have started to produce a wider range of PPE to fit more females’ faces, hands and bodies. It’s crucial for employers to provide proper PPE to effectively protect their employees from hazards. While it may seem like a small detail, it’s a factor that can impact an employee’s physical and mental health.
Nicole Randall, Director of Marketing and External Affairs at the International Safety Equipment Association, spoke about this in an interview with Safety and Health Magazine: “How can [a woman] trust her employer if the proper PPE isn’t provided?” she said. “If an employee doesn’t feel welcome, then retention becomes an issue. As employers provide the necessary resources, I think they’ll begin to see more satisfaction in the workplace.”
Concern #3: Mental Health
Women in the workplace experience stressors related to sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination and managing care of children and aging parents – all of these issues are in addition to any stress related to the day-to-day operations. Many women also experience interpersonal conflict, lack of supervisor support, low job control, task overload and work/life imbalance. This stress can impact workers’ health and job performance if it is not managed properly.
It is beneficial for companies to incorporate mental health into a company-wide wellness program, offering rewards for completing meditation videos, online stress management courses and other related activities. But employers should also re-evaluate their workplace culture and enforce change to ultimately result in a lower stress environment. Companies should provide the proper resources and support that allow employees to do their jobs and feel valued while allowing them to feel a sense of control, empowerment and belonging. Supervisors need to provide an environment where the employee’s life inside and outside of work is supported and respected.
For example, the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center developed multiple training courses for leaders to reduce stress and improve management techniques. These courses have created a culture emphasizing women’s safety, ensuring their female employees are comfortable seeking out a supportive leader for any issue.
Next Steps to Prioritize Women’s Safety?
Horton Safety Consultants is available to evaluate your safety plan and ensure that it contains elements that focus on women’s safety and help employees feel protected. Additionally, our wellness team can help you set up a wellness program to improve employees’ mental health.
Material posted on this website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a legal opinion or medical advice. Contact your legal representative or medical professional for information specific to your legal or medical needs.