Women in Construction Present an Opportunity to Solve the Labor Shortage

As the construction iSafety Girlndustry continues to grow, there is a shortage of skilled workers and construction management professionals. The industry is missing the women’s demographic in the search to fill these gaps. Women construction professionals often enter the industry with a keen sense of self-actualization, which fuels elevated performance.

Women’s perseverance to succeed in an industry they once were told they could not gives women constructors a sense of pride and legacy. Their presence in the industry is not only about their success, but also the success of other potential women employees within the industry.

As we all settle down from the highs of the Women’s March around the world, we need to charge our companies to create an inclusive culture. Companies should strive to create an environment in which differences can be used to strengthen employee engagement, in turn increasing client satisfaction and the company’s bottom line.

Society has become intolerant of gender divides. There is a push in OSHA to set legislation in place to encourage the awareness of gender differences and understand the accommodations that need to be made to create an inclusive environment in the construction industry. There is no doubt that businesses that choose not to embrace diversity will inevitably be left behind.

Jobsite Safety for Women

Approximately 872,000 women currently work in the construction industry, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Labor. Seventy-five percent of those women are in administrative, sales or management positions. This leaves 25 percent of women in the construction workforce exposed to the same daily safety and health risks as their male counterparts; yet, their specific protection from these hazards has not been fully addressed.

Too frequently, women are forced to use personal protective equipment (PPE) and clothing that is not the correct size or fit. For fear of being ostracized on the jobsite, women are intimidated to make requests for proper gear that will set them apart from their coworkers.

These safety hazards create gender barriers and can deter women from seeking employment in the construction industry. It is important to acknowledge this stigma and educate employers on the detrimental repercussions of ignoring any safety standards. As construction companies push to fill the labor gap, it is imperative for companies to become progressive in their marketing approach and create a culture that will address the specific safety needs of women workers.

OSHA requires employers to provide all employees with a safe workplace, but every 18 seconds a worker is injured on the jobsite. Once a jobsite safety hazard assessment has been completed, a list of PPE should be disseminated to all employees. This list should also notify employees of the potential hazards, provide training on how to avoid injury and educate them on required PPE. It is the employer’s responsibility to supply the required equipment to each employee at no charge. However, the construction industry lacks the provisions, research and development necessary to provide personal protective equipment suitable for women.

ANTHROPOMETRIC EQUIPMENT

Ill-fitting PPE and clothing compromise workers’ safety on the jobsite. Women have a right to test all equipment that is provided to them to ensure a proper fit. OSHA mandates PPE be designed anthropometrically, which is the science of defining human body dimensions and physical characteristics. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducts anthropometric research to prevent work-related injuries and deaths by studying how work spaces, equipment and clothing fit a diverse worker population.

Most anthropometric data available to date is from the 1970s. This research was based on the body sizes and shapes of modern military personnel and the general working population from that era. This decades-old data does not represent the sizes and body types of today’s female workers.

RAISING AWARENESS

A recent NIOSH study of 26 women construction workers evaluated the efficacy of a fall protection harness system. Their body size and shape information was measured while they were suspended in a standard size harness and standing with a harness. It was discovered that an integrated redesign of harness components is needed because 40 percent of the women did not pass fit-performance criteria in either the standing or suspended condition.

BE PREPARED

All project managers, superintendents and foremen should understand how to identify job safety hazards specific to demographics of their workers and their jobsites. Jobsite hazard communication plans and emergency preparedness plans should be in place and disseminated to all workers.

It is beneficial to hire a safety consultant that is familiar with the science of teaching and incorporating a corporate safety culture. The construction industry is evolving and companies are charged with staying ahead of these changes to attract and retain the skilled labor needed to complete their jobs. As the industry shifts and more women are encouraged to enter the trades, companies will no longer be able to ignore these gender disparities.

Advice for Military Widows

Tombstones at Arlington National Cemetery, July 2006Memorial Day weekend has become a time for the first barbeques, outdoor pool celebrations, and huge sales at nearly every department store. For those who have lost a loved one in the armed forces, however, Memorial Day can be a difficult time.  And with thousands of young men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, there are, in turn, thousands of young widows and widowers looking for support and resources.

Losing a loved one in combat is probably the most difficult and painful time in your life. When facing this crisis, it’s important to remember to give yourself time to grieve your loss and accept any feelings that may arise, including sadness, guilt, anger, isolation, loneliness, or depression.  All these feelings, and any others, are OK: you’ll have good days and bad days, days when your grief is more triggered than others, days when you laugh, and days when you cry.  But if you give yourself time to grieve, life will eventually stabilize.

If you have children, it’s important to be honest with them about your spouse’s death.  Children know when adults are skewing the truth, so explain to them what it means for someone to be physically dead; don’t use euphemisms such as “lost,” “gone away,” or “sleeping.”  Give your children permission—just like you gave yourself—to feel grief or any other feelings, and don’t hide your own feelings from them.  Explain your family’s and the army’s death rituals to your children, and prepare them for all activities including the funeral itself, any viewings, the burial, and any post-funeral gatherings.  If the children are willing, let them be active participants in the funeral and surrounding activities, such as picking out the casket, writing a note to your spouse, selecting what clothes they will wear.

When you are ready, it’s extremely important to evaluate your finances after the death of a spouse.  As a military widow, you will receive a $100,000 death benefit from the government and professional financial advice to help you manage this money and your other funds.  You’ll need to use your death benefit and your other money wisely, to be sure you can pay your mortgage or rent, have health and life insurance as well as any other insurance, and provide for your children.  Be organized about your finances, know where everything is, and have a plan for surviving the worst possible financial situations.

Finally, many of your family and friends may encourage you to start dating.  Don’t let anyone push you into a relationship or dating; only do so when you are ready and feel confident about yourself.  If you feel ready to date, many military widows have a hard time dating because they feel that men are trying to take advantage of them or compare themselves to your late husband.  So when you’re ready to get back into the dating scene, don’t go searching immediately for your life partner (after all, were you searching for your husband before you were married?), have fun, and be confident about your self worth.

There is a great resource for military widows, The American Widow Project, with links to blogs, books, and podcasts.  Be sure to take a look at this website for fantastic online support!

Hard Hat Hair

msavgft_-06_brown_v-gard-fas-trac-slotted-protective-capWe recently got a question from a reader on how to avoid hardhat hair. There are a few options, and none of them is difficult or expensive, but none of them is going to have  you looking like you just stepped out of a salon. Sorry! Consider it the cost of the job.

You can…

Wrap a bandana around the suspension unit to lessen the marks left behind by them.

Wear a natural-fiber hat under the hat in the winter – synthetic fibers will create static and fly-aways.

Never start with even damp hair. Wet hair will exacerbate the condition!

Style your hair while you wear the hat! If it’s long, wrap your hair into a loose bun or twisty pony shoved under the hat, and let the hat set the curl. If it’s short, carry a volumizing product with you and when you remove the hat, rub just a bit of the product between your hands and fluff your locks.

Don’t wear metal barettes, which can conduct electricity.

If you wear a ponytail down, make it low!

And here’s my personal favorite: if you part your hair on the side, start on the opposite side, and part low. When you take off the hat, flip the part to its typical position and the worst of the dented hair will be under smoother hair.

Suit Up, Ladies!

On any job site, whether it’s large or small, safety is always a key issue, but safety gear only works if a worker wears it and if it fits correctly. Ill fitting safety gear can actually be more of a hazard than a help. Loose fitting garments can get caught in machinery causing an accident, and tight fitting garments can restrict movement.

Women's Overalls

Traditionally men held the types of jobs that require safety gear, so naturally most safety gear is sized for men. As women became more and more common on the labor scene, they simply wore smaller versions of men’s sizes. For years this has worked well enough, so no one stepped back to consider the obvious: since men and women are shaped differently from head to toe, why not create a line of overalls sized for women?

Women's Overalls from Dickies

Well, women’s overalls are finally available from several different manufacturers. Tailored to fit a woman’s figure, these overalls allow a woman to function comfortably throughout the day. But making a pair of overalls specifically for a woman goes beyond just tailoring the garment to fit a woman’s shape.

Other challenges include eliminating the traditional bulky appearance of a jumpsuit by concealing breast pockets, shoulder pleats for easy upper body movement, and a hidden drop seat for restroom convenience. Some styles come complete with built in kneepads and removable sleeves, and overalls are manufactured in a variety of materials to suit warm weather as well as cold weather c0nditions.

No longer will women have to settle for a man’s coveralls. Now women can step into their work day confident and comfortable, ready to show up, suit up and get the job done.