Recent California symposium highlights women injured in the workplace

In February the California Applicants' Attorneys Association held a symposium regarding workplace injuries that affect women. "Working Women's Injuries Symposium: Causes, Consequences and Prevention" examined the causes of injuries to women in the workplace and attempted to generate policies that would reduce and better address women's safety while at work.

At the symposium, experts and safety advocates claimed that women account for 40 percent of all work injuries, and women ages 25-64 who perform the same job as men have up to a 40 percent greater rate of work injury than male colleagues. Women ages 55-64 have a 50 percent higher rate of work injury than men. The California Commission on Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation found that the risk of injury to women increases as they age, while men suffer fewer injuries in the twilight of their careers.

One reason for the discrepancy may be that women may face different workplace injury challenges than men, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While women now make up 50 percent of the workforce, women are still statistically more likely to work full-time as secretaries, receptionists, nurses, home health aides and maids. These occupations come with an increased risk of repetitive motion injuries, such as hand, foot and back injuries. Such injuries are more likely to accrue over time.

Violence in the workplace also affects women. Workplace violence causes the second most number of workplace fatalities for women. Psychological injuries resulting from sexual harassment are also an issue facing women in the workforce.

Legislation may address some workplace concerns for women

State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, Vice-Chair of the Legislative Women's Caucus, in a press release issued after the symposium stated that "some of the ideas identified today will result in legislation, regulations, industry safety practices and programs, and education programs." No specific bills have been introduced since the symposium, however.

Within the overall theme of workplace safety for women, the symposium also addressed:

  • How immigrant women underreport workplace injury
  • How low-paying jobs occupied by women carry a higher risk of injury
  • How women who work in traditionally male work environments can better address safety issues and workplace training
  • How to address and prevent cumulative trauma injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome and back strain

Employers may need to focus on women's safety

For employers, the symposium serves as a reminder that worker safety and training is paramount for any business. Proper safety procedures, clear safety expectations for workers and a work environment free from sexual harassment makes for a better workplace environment and protects businesses and employees alike.

Numerous state and federal laws address workplace safety, and if the recent symposium is any indication, more legislation may be on the horizon. Businesses in need of workers' compensation defense or help in establishing a safe work environment should contact an experienced workers' compensation defense attorney to discuss best practices and legal protections.