People come in all shapes and sizes and when it comes to health and safety, the ‘one size fits all’ approach is old-fashioned and dangerous.

In the past the health and safety needs of men in the workplace have been prioritised over women. Risk prevention has focused on visibly dangerous work – largely carried out by men – in industries like construction and mining, with an assumption that the kind of work that women do is safer, and when women do work in areas that have traditionally been done by men they often find that when they are given equipment to protect them at work, it is often designed for men.

Where the differences between men and women are taken into account when assessing risk and deciding suitable risk control solutions, there is a greater chance of ensuring that the health, safety and welfare of all workers is protected.

Women are more exposed to repetitive and monotonous work and to stressful conditions, they are more likely to experience harassment at work than men and women are more likely than men to develop back strain, skin diseases, headaches and eyestrain. For some women, such as cleaners, their workplace health problems are also frequently compounded by getting more of the same at home - the "double jeopardy " of domestic work, which can mean a second shift of things like exposure to cleaning chemicals topping off those experienced all day at work

Resources

TUC guide to gender and health and safety

TUC Gender and Occupational Safety and Health 'Gender-sensitivity' Checklist

TUC report on Personal Protective Equipment and Women

Supporting women through the menopause