Health & Safety

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Incidence of Work-Related Disorders

10 January 2014

An initial analysis of a survey done in 2012 in Germany has revealed a "gender gap" in health and safety at work. Women more often than men suffer a wide range of work-related complaints.

working mum

Women report a higher incidence of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), vision problems, dizziness, headache, fatigue, emotional stress, sleep disorders, physical and psychological exhaustion, as well as coughs, skin and eye irritation and cardiac disorders. Overall, women rate their health at work worse than men and more consistently seek medical treatment than men when work-related health problems arise. In all, 20,036 workers aged 15 and over working at least 10 hours a week were surveyed. The survey was conducted by the Federal Institute for Vocational Training (BIBB) in cooperation with the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA).

Other Research

The German study follows work done in 2011 by Daniela Tieves' whose report 'Women and Occupational Diseases in the European Union' and work done by the European Trade Union Institute on the link between the struggle for equality and health at work. Here in the UK research published by the TUC in 1999 'A woman`s work is never safe' concluded women developed different occupational health problems to men because of the types of job they do, findings subsequently confirmed in the more recent international research.

Key Findings

  • 100,000 women a year suffer with their backs because of work,
  • one in ten 25-34 year old women workers have been physically attacked by a member of the public in the course of their work,
  • more than a quarter of women have to lift or move heavy loads at work, and
  • stress is the second most commonly reported condition among working women and the source of the most concern.

CWU Action

Trade Unions warned in 2013 that health and safety issues affecting women are still either ignored, under-researched or unrecognised, problems that must be addressed.

Following CWU Conference policy decisions the CWU Health, Safety & Environment Department has raised the issue of supporting women working through the menopause at work with the main employers and the Health and Safety Executive. The union has called for recognition of the issue, special consideration and to develop a simple policy and strategies for helping individual manage and cope with problematic menopausal symptoms whilst at work.