Workplace violence aimed at women and personal protective equipment that fits women were among the many issues surrounding the safety of women in the workplace explored at a recent summit hosted by the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP). More than 50 safety experts gathered at the Women’s Workplace Safety Summit near Chicago, also analyzing obstacles that keep women from advancing into leadership positions in the occupational safety and health profession. The diverse group of thought leaders represented businesses, nonprofits, labor, academia, government and professional associations.
“Workplace violence has a disproportionate impact on women and is the leading cause of fatalities for workers who are women,” said ASSP President Rixio Medina, CSP, CPP. “This significant issue and others led us to bring together a diverse group of people who are involved in advancing key issues surrounding women and safety.”
The summit was sponsored by Amazon, the giant online retailer whose warehouse fatalities (seven since 2013) have earned it criticism from the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health.
ASSP President-Elect Diana Stegall, CSP, CFPS, ARM, CPCU, welcomed workshop participants who represented the Board of Certified Safety Professionals, National Nurses United, Siemens, Procter & Gamble, General Motors, Amazon, W.W. Grainger, National Safety Council, L.L.Bean, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, American Industrial Hygiene Association and many other organizations. The summit is viewed as the first of many opportunities for safety experts to collaborate on initiatives that will drive change and help solve longstanding issues experienced by women in the workforce.
“By harnessing our collective power, we can lead a deeper global conversation and make a lasting impact for women everywhere,” said Abby Ferri, administrator of ASSP’s Women in Safety Excellence (WISE) Common Interest Group. “Women make up nearly 50 percent of the global workforce and often experience occupational risks differently than men. However, safety interventions frequently take a one-size-fits-all approach. We must advocate for gender-specific solutions.”
WISE is the leading member community within ASSP’s global membership of 38,000 safety and health professionals that promotes equity and advancement of women in the safety profession. The group is committed to influencing industry and identifying solutions to safety and health challenges that impact women worldwide.
The summit included a keynote address by Dr. Cori Wong from Colorado State University who discussed gender equity and inclusion and how those factors intersect workplace safety. Working groups focused on topics that included how personal protective equipment on the job is seldom designed for women, leading to higher risk when the fit is less than ideal. The groups also analyzed how to prevent workplace violence against women – from verbal and physical abuse to sexual assault and even murder – and identified strategies that can help more women reach leadership positions and executive roles in the occupational safety and health profession.
Outcomes of the summit will be action-focused and strategically developed in the months to come. Plans already include a formal report early next year, ASSP webinars that focus on the issues addressed at the summit, and a key issue collaboration session at ASSP’s Safety 2019 Professional Development Conference & Exposition in New Orleans in June.