Women and safety and health at work

Women and health at work. Female worker at the workplace

Men and women are not the same biologically (sex differences) and the jobs they do, their working conditions and how they are treated by society are not the same (gender differences).

Such differences can affect the hazards men and women face at work and how to assess and control them. This is why EU-OSHA researches and raises awareness of the OSH issues facing women at work.

Differences that can affect OSH

There are differences that affect the risks that men and women face. Women:

  • Work in specific sectors and specific types of work
  • Balance dual responsibilities at work and home
  • Are underrepresented at supervisor and management level
  • Are physically different to men, although there is often more variation between women than between men and women, for example, in physical strength.
  • Do jobs that are often wrongly assumed to be safe and easy

Often these differences are not recognised in safety and health practice. What’s more, workload and stress-related risks to women in the workplace are often underestimated. EU-OSHA aims to highlight these differences and help improve OSH in areas that affect women most.

What employers can do

A gender-sensitive approach to OSH means recognising and taking account of the differences between male and female workers.

Employers can:

  • Aim to make work safer and easier for everyone
  • Include gender issues in risk assessment
  • Look at the real work done and avoid assumptions about who is at risk and why
  • Offer flexibility in working hours
  • Involve women in OSH decision-making

This approach is beneficial for all employees, not just women.

Read EU-OSHA's factsheets for employers on gender issues and risk assessment.

EU-OSHA’s role

The key aim is to help ensure that gender-related issues are taken into account when policies and decisions are made in the workplace and at EU level. EU-OSHA actively researches risks and trends related to gender. This includes research focused on sectors where women work, such as cleaning, and on risks faced in particular by women. We also mainstream — or integrate — gender into other research areas.

We provide tools and advice to help employers identify and implement gender-sensitive risk assessment.

See also EU-OSHA's research into new risks and trends in the safety and health of women at work and discover good practice guides and tools for risk assessments.