By K. Aleisha Fetters
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Female tradeswomen contend with numerous safety risks tied to their scarcity in the building sector. The bad economy is only making matters worse, says a leading researcher and writer on women in these nontraditional fields.
Lack of onsite bathrooms is also a large matter of contention for women in the trades.
Federal sanitation standards require employers to provide their employees with separate toilet facilities for each sex.
Boatman said these are often missing on actual worksites and female workers sometimes report having to jog 20 minutes to reach a facility. Jacobsohn added that a lack of or inadequate facilities cause frequent bladder infections in women.
Local unions are urged to establish joint safety and health committees, according to Carolyn Williams, human services director of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Unions are responsible for maintaining records of on-the-job accidents and injuries and reporting "significant accident trends" to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and other government agencies. The OSHA Act of 1970 requires employers to provide employees with a place of employment that is free from known hazards causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees.
While OSHA regulations contain "hundreds of statues on safety and sexual harassment," enforcement of OSHA regulations has been weakened over time, Moccio said.
The leading cause of worksite fatalities in the construction trades is falling from a dangerous height. But standard fall harnesses aren't manufactured to fit women.
"They cut them right in the breasts," said Debra Chaplan, director of special programs for the State Building and Construction Trades Council. "Some jobsites have started using ones that form a triangle around the chest, but that just opens women up to even more sexual harassment."
Unless there is a major incident, a complaint won't get any action taken on it, even if it is a federal safety standard, Chaplan said.
"There are just not enough people to make it happen," she said.
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K. Aleisha Fetters is a freelance writer based in New York City.
The Center for Construction Research and Training:
State Building and Construction Trades Council: