Health and Safety at Work: The Woman’s Perspective

Health and Safety at Work: The Woman’s Perspective

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On this Mother’s Day, we’d like to shine a light on the women’s health and safety at work. From navigating work-life balance to addressing challenges like fatigue and menopause it is important to address the significant impact of workplace hazards on women’s psychological and physical health and especially their reproductive health and early pregnancy.

Cytotoxic Drugs and Hazardous Waste: Ensuring Safe Handling

In health, aged care settings and laboratories, women may encounter cytotoxic drugs and hazardous waste, which pose risks to reproductive health and early pregnancy. Exposure to these substances can lead to adverse effects on fertility, miscarriage, and developmental abnormalities in foetuses.

Employers must take all reasonable steps to identify, assess and eliminate or control this risk. This will include providing training, personal protective equipment, and safe handling protocols to minimize the risks associated with cytotoxic drugs and hazardous waste.

Lethbridge Piper & Associates image of a caution cytotoxic sign, in purple and white.

Women working in industries where they are exposed to chemicals and radiation may face heightened risks to their reproductive health. Prolonged exposure to toxins and radiation can disrupt hormonal balance, affect menstrual cycles, and increase the likelihood of infertility or pregnancy complications.

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Implementing measures such as proper ventilation, protective clothing, regular monitoring, and limits on exposure levels is crucial to safeguard women’s reproductive health and mitigate the potential harmful effects of these occupational hazards.

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Promoting Maternal Well-being and Early Pregnancy Support

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Recognising the unique challenges women face in balancing work and reproductive health, employers can take proactive steps to support maternal well-being and early pregnancy. Providing access to maternal health resources, flexible work arrangements, prenatal care benefits, and accommodation for pregnancy-related needs can help women navigate the demands of work while prioritizing their health and the well-being of their growing families.

Advocating for Protective Policies and Supportive Practices

Advocacy for protective policies that prioritise women’s reproductive health and safety is essential to create a work environment that values and supports maternal well-being. From ensuring adequate 

rest breaks for pregnant women to offering accommodations for lactation and breastfeeding, policies that consider women’s unique biological needs foster a culture of inclusivity and support that benefits both employees and employers.

Work-Life Balance: Striking the Right Balance

For many working mothers, achieving a balance between career demands and family responsibilities can feel like an uphill battle. The pressure to excel in both domains often leads to stress, burnout, and feelings of guilt. Employers play a crucial role in promoting flexible work arrangements, childcare support, and a culture that values work-life balance, empowering women to thrive both at work and at home.

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Fatigue and Menopause: Navigating Hormonal Changes

Menopause, a natural phase in a woman’s life, can bring about hormonal fluctuations that impact energy levels, mood, and cognitive function. The physical and emotional symptoms associated with menopause can exacerbate fatigue and fatigue-related risk as well as impacting productivity. Creating a supportive environment that accommodates women experiencing menopause is essential for their health and well-being.

Equal Pay and Parenting Leave: Closing the Gap

Despite strides towards gender equality, the gender pay gap persists, with women earning less than their male counterparts for equal work. Additionally, inadequate parental leave policies can hinder women’s career progression and financial stability. Ensuring equal pay, as well as offering extended and flexible parenting leave options, can help level the playing field and support working mothers in advancing their careers.

Domestic Violence and Workplace Hazards: Providing Protection

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Women experiencing domestic violence may face threats to their safety both at home and in the workplace. Employers can play a pivotal role in creating policies and resources to support employees affected by domestic violence, ensuring their safety and well-being. Similarly, addressing workplace hazards and promoting a safe working environment is essential to protect women from occupational risks and accidents.

Domestic and family violence leave is now available in Queensland under the Queensland Employment Standards provisions of the Industrial Relations Act 2016 for employees who have experienced domestic and family violence and require leave as a result.

More information is available here:

Help is available 24/7 for people experiencing domestic violence by calling 1800 737 732.

Sexual Harassment: Cultivating a Culture of Respect

Everyone deserves a safe workplace free from sexual harassment. This protection extends to all workers and individuals conducting business activities.

 Sexual harassment includes unwelcome advances or behaviour of a sexual nature that could reasonably offend, humiliate, or intimidate the recipient.

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The intentions of the harasser are irrelevant, and harassment can occur in a single instance. Such conduct is considered serious misconduct and may lead to dismissal. Witnessing or being exposed to sexual harassment in the workplace is also unacceptable.

But raising the issue with your employer or the offender can be difficult, and many people would rather avoid having the conversation for fear of making the situation worse or not being believed.

The Fair Work Ombudsman offers a free course “Difficult conversations in the workplace – employee course” which can help you gain the skills and confidence you need to discuss workplace issues when they arise. It includes:

  • information about how to handle a difficult conversation
  • tips to help you prepare, manage your emotions, and reach a positive outcome
  • interactive scenarios to help you practice your conversation skills
  • downloadable resources and links to further information. 

 

Psychological Safety and Mental Health: Prioritising Well-Being

Psychological safety in the workplace is crucial for women to speak up, share their concerns, and seek support without fear of retribution. Prioritising mental health resources, destigmatising seeking help, and promoting a culture of openness and empathy can enhance psychological well-being and foster a supportive work environment for all employees.

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The model Code of Practice for Managing the Risk of Psychosocial Hazards at Work provides employers with guidance on applying the risk management process to identifying, assessing, and controlling psychological hazards at work. This is supported in Queensland by the new Workers’ Psychological Support Service (WPSS) which provides a comprehensive suite of services for worker experiences a range of psychological health challenges.

WPSS can be contacted on 1800 370 732 or info@wpss.org.au

Valuing and prioritising women’s health and safety at work is not only a matter of ethical responsibility and legal obligation for employers, but also a strategic imperative for building a diverse, inclusive, and thriving workforce. By addressing the unique challenges faced by women, promoting equity and support, and fostering a culture of respect and well-being, we can pave the way for a safer, more empowered, and inclusive workplace for all women and the generations to come, this Mother’s Day and beyond.

 

So, to all the mums, soon-to-be mums, grandmas, nannas, sisters, cool aunties and other mother role models, Happy Mothers’ Day from Lethbridge Piper & Associates.

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