WORKING WOMEN FACE HIGH RISKS
FROM WORK STRESS, MUSCULOSKELETAL
INJURIES, OTHER DISORDERS

 

Working women compose an increasingly large proportion of the U.S. work force. They also face high risk from job-related stress, musculoskeletal injuries, violence, and other hazards of the modern workplace, new reports by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conclude. In many respects, the risks are higher than those for male workers.

NIOSH researchers describe their findings in two articles and an editorial in the Spring 2000 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Women's Association. The editorial pro-vides an overview of occupational health and safety hazards for working women. One of the articles addresses work stress and women. The other article, co-written by authors from NIOSH and two other organizations, examines health and safety concerns for working women in construction.

"Many factors heighten certain risks of work-related injury, illness, and death for female workers," said NIOSH Director Linda Rosenstock, M.D., M.P.H. "It is important to recognize these hazards and to keep all workers, women and men alike, safe on the job."

Women currently make up almost half of the general U.S. work force. In the growing health care industry, where a complex range of hazards exists, including latex allergy, back injuries, and needle-stick injuries, about 80 percent of the work force is female.

Increasingly, women are moving into occupations once held exclusively by men, such as the construction trades. In such instances, physiological differences between women and men can translate into occupational hazards, as when women operate equipment designed for male workers of larger stature.

Women workers are at disproportionately high risk for musculoskeletal injuries on the job, suffering 63 percent of all work-related repetitive motion injuries. Hazards such as radiation, glycol ethers, lead, and strenuous physical labor can affect a woman's reproductive health, including pregnancy outcomes. Violence is also a special concern for women workers. Homicide is the leading cause of job-related death for women, and women also are at increased risk of non-fatal assault.

The NIOSH article "Working Women and Stress" finds that:

The article "Women in Construction: Occupational Health and Working Conditions," finds that:

Further information on job-related stress appears in a NIOSH document, "Stress ... At Work," DHHS (NIOSH) Publication 99-101, issued in 1999. Additional information on protecting the health and safety of women in construction appears in another NIOSH document, "Providing Safety and Health Protection for a Diverse Construction Workforce: Issues and Ideas," DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 99-140.  For copies of those documents or for other informa-tion on the health and safety of working women, call the toll-free NIOSH information number, 1-800-35-NIOSH (1-800-356-4674), or visit NIOSH on the World Wide Web at www.cdc.gov/niosh.

The Regentsí Training Center has many excellent videos and other resource materials available on a variety of subjects.  Videos include those on ergonomics that addresses musculoskeletal problems and video display terminal stress.  Other videos cover subjects such safe lifting techniques, minimizing back strain, accident causes and prevention, and fall prevention. These videos and other resource materials are available free of charge from the Regentsí Training Center.  Contact the training center at (405) 325-8069 for more information.