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Female construction workers' shapes may threaten their lives

If you are a female construction worker in a full-body harness designed for a bulky male, your life may be at risk. Across the nation, including in California, the construction workforce's face is rapidly changing. An ever-growing number of women are building construction careers. However, along with dangers, such as fatal falls, entrapment, electrocutions and more, as a woman, you might face some unique hazards in the construction industry. Unique aspects such as the body shapes and often-smaller physiques of women are but some of the challenges for employers.

Even the most compliant employers with federal safety regulations must adapt their safety protocols to include women. Here are four aspects that they might have to revisit to ensure female construction workers receive the same protection as their male colleagues.

1. Personal protective equipment to fit all

There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all in personal protective equipment (PPE.) Some manufacturers of PPE have started to include products made to fit female bodies comfortably in their product ranges. Company owners must make sure they purchase products approved by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the American National Standards Institute. For example, a full body harness designed for a male body will likely not fit many females, nor will it save their lives. A range of PPE to fit all workers must be available on site.

2. Facilitate equipment testing and fitting sessions

To ensure all employees, including women, have properly fitted PPE, the gear must be based on their body measurements. To ensure the comfort of the fitted gear, it may help to have employees do controlled training while wearing the equipment to test comfort. At this time, the employer can ensure that the PPE for each worker is a proper fit, comfortable and in good repair. If it fails any of these requirements, it will not serve its purpose.

3. Training and support must continue

For many years, male workers underwent ongoing coaching, training and mentoring from male colleagues. Female colleagues may not receive the same mentoring. For this reason, if you do not receive ongoing quality training -- both project and safety training -- your life could be at risk, and this includes adequate training in the proper operation of PPE. If your employer prioritizes productivity over safety, it may force you to seek the guidance and mentoring of knowledgeable and experienced male colleagues.

4. Encourage fairness and safety -- discourage bullying

Although it makes no sense for male construction workers to feel threatened by females entering their domains, harassment, verbal abuse and bullying seem to be rampant on construction sites where women work alongside men. Business owners must discourage such behavior that can lead to distractions. Distracted construction workers can make mistakes that can cause accidents with severe injuries or worse. Workplace environments that are free of all types of discrimination, where each employee is comfortable in his or her PPE and adequately trained, may be safer and more productive.

Construction workers in California, regardless of gender, may find comfort in knowing that workers' compensation will cover medical expenses and lost income if workplace accidents cause injuries. Furthermore, if you suffer an injury that leaves you with a temporary disability, you can utilize the services of an experienced workers' compensation attorney. He or she can navigate the benefits claim on your behalf. A lawyer who can recommend the best doctors and get the appropriate paperwork to fight for your benefits can allow you the time you need to recover and return to work.

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