Project: New risks and trends in the safety and health of women at work. A summary of an agency report


This project was submitted on 10/06/2014 and published by EU-OSHA

In 2009 and 2010, the Agency commissioned an update to its previous research on gender issues at work (EU-OSHA, 2003), which found that inequality both within and outside the workplace can have an effect on the health and safety of women at work. This report provides that update and the first figures on the effects of the recent economic downturn on women at work. It aims to fulfil the task outlined by the European strategy on health and safety at work (EC, 2002) for EU-OSHA’s European
Risk Observatory: ‘examining the specific challenges in terms of health and safety posed by the more extensive integration of women in the labour market’.
Gender inequalities in the workplace and work–life balance issues have become increasingly important as the employment rates of women have continued to grow in all Member States. Although
in 2012 58.6 % of working age women (in the EU-27) were in employment and women filled 59 % of all newly created jobs in 2009(1), the extent to which women contribute economically still seems to be underestimated. At its start, women were affected less than men by the recent economic crisis, as the first jobs to be lost were mostly in the male-dominated construction and manufacturing industries.
However, between 2008 and 2012, European gender differences in employment fell by an average of 7.6 to 6.3 percentage points, mainly because male employment rates fell more than those of women, which have returned to the 2007 level. A modern organisation of work, a knowledge economy, competitiveness and more and better jobs are central to the post-2010 Lisbon Strategy and the EU’s 2020 Strategy. Women are essential to the workforce in terms of providing an active and sustainable source of labour, and in June 2010 the European Council set a new, ambitious target aiming to raise the employment rate for women and men aged 20–64 to 75 % by 2020, partly through the greater participation of young people, older workers and low-skilled workers and the better integration of legal migrants. However, although employment rates for women are rising, much remains to be done,
especially for older and younger women, to reach this goal and at the same time ensure decent work for all.
The issue of occupational safety and health (OSH) for women who work in the European Union (EU) is central to an understanding of the working environment. Previous research has shown that
women’s OSH has to be improved. Research from the European Commission illustrates that, even by 1995, women accounted for close to or above half of all cases of work-associated ill health, including allergies (45 %), infectious illnesses (61 %), neurological complaints (55 %) and hepatic and dermatological complaints (48 %). The situation has not improved. Further, for ‘women’s jobs’, such as those in the health and social services, retail and hospitality sectors, there is a stagnation in accident rates in some countries; women are more likely to be bullied and harassed, subjected to sexual harassment and have to use poorly fitting personal protective equipment that is not usually sized for a smaller frame.
The aims of this review are to:
 Provide a statistical overview of the trends in employment and integration of women in the labour
market, and explore how they impact on their occupational safety and health.
 Identify and highlight the main issues and trends in employment characteristics, working conditions, hazard exposure and work-related accidents and health problems for women at work
and explore more in-depth selected issues not addressed thoroughly before, such as combined exposures, informal work and the rehabilitation of women into work.
 Identify emerging issues for OSH research and the prevention of occupational diseases and accidents affecting women at work.

This focus on OSH benefits not only women but also men who work, and thus reinforces the considerable potential to be gained by improved workplaces.
A summary of the findings and trends and a more detailed list of suggestions is included in every chapter of this report and in the conclusions.

Other, Risk management
Agriculture, Aviation and Aerospace, Chemical, Construction, Education, Engineering, Entertainment and Leisure, Environmental and Waste management, Finance, Fire, Food and Drink, Healthcare, Local Authorities, Manufacturing, Media, Nuclear, Offices, Offshore, Other, Public Sector, Quarrying / Mining, Railway, Retail, Telecommunications, Transport

Organisation: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work

12 Santiago de Compostela,
(Edificio Miribilla) 5th Floor,
E-48003 ,
+ 34 944-358-400
+ 34 944-358-401

Principal Investigator: Project Management: Elke Schneider, European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA)

Other Researchers: Eva Flaspöler, Angelika Hauke, Dorothea Koppisch, Dietmar Reinert, (IFA), Institut für Arbeitsschutz der Deutschen Gesetzlichen Unfallversicherung, Germany. Theoni Koukoulaki, (ELINYAE). Gediminas Vilkevicius, (LZUU)
Mónica Águila Martínez-Casariego, Myriam Baquero Martínez, Luis González Lozar, Sofía Vega
Martínez, Sara López Riera, (INSHT). Louise Carter, Christine Leah, Roxane Gervais, (HSL), Juliet Hassard, (I-WHO)

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