||Injury and Injury Prevention: Women in Work Related to Mining
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The research and publication of this study were funded by the Prairie Women's Health Centre of Excellence (PWHCE). The PWHCE is financially supported by the Centre of Excellence for Women's Health Program, Bureau of Women's Health and Gender Analysis, Health Canada. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of the PWHCE or the official policy of Health Canada.
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Over the past three years, Prairie Women’s Health Centre of Excellence (PWHCE) has been involved in exploratory studies on the experiences and perspectives of Aboriginal women working in resource extractive industries in Northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Each study took a peripheral look at the occupational injuries sustained by women in the mining sector in both traditional positions, such as administration and housekeeping, as well as in non-traditional jobs, like processing.
Building on these earlier reports, the current project includes the voices of seventeen women occupying a variety of positions in the mining sector within rural, remote and northern settings in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Yukon, and the Northwest Territories. Interviews with these professionals set out to understand what contributes to women’s vulnerability for work-related injuries in mining; what are their specific health and safety concerns and; what are their recommendations for making the sector more responsive, supportive and safe for them and other women workers.
The report is divided into five sections. Following an introduction to the project, there will be findings related to safety training, injury prevention, occupational injuries, and other work-related stressors. The report concludes with a number of recommendations that surfaced throughout the discussions with the women.
Based on what was heard from the women, a number of recommendations have been developed. While some of these can applied across the board to include male colleagues, many are specific to the needs of women workers. All of these recommendations were directed to the mining companies to mitigate women’s injury in the workplace.
Bearing in mind that safety training is pivotal for injury prevention, mining companies should be mindful of the following strategies:
While women acknowledge that injuries, accidents and near misses are a constant in the mining sector, they envision the following strategies for mining companies in order to move towards safer workplaces for them.
- Provide women with greater and on-going opportunities to learn about personal and industry safety.
- Continue to emphasize the importance of women’s participation in all safety workshops and training in order to review, repeat and build on previous safety knowledge.
- Develop and offer women employees with hands-on experiential safety training above and beyond standard preparation (e.g. when teaching about fire extinguishers, use them).
- Offer daily safety meetings for all employees, even amongst those whose hours, shifts and positions do not currently allow for this.
- Ensure that peer to peer training include partnering seasoned workers with new hires.
Develop and give women the option to attend women-specific safety training sessions and workshops.
- Evaluate the effectiveness and short-comings of safety practices and training for women.
- Promote awareness amongst women of all safety policies and regulations within the industry.
Women recognize that there are gender-specific stressors which influence how they experience the workforce, namely around maternal health and sexual harassment, which need particular attention by mining companies.
- Conduct research on maximum weights which can be safely carried by women and understand that these weights may be different than those safely carried by men.
- Provide women with properly fitting personal protective equipment.
- Understand how and why injuries, accidents and near misses are reported, under-reported or not reported by women.
- Create a safe corporate environment that will encourage women to report injury, however minor, without fear of ridicule, blame or shame directed at them from male co-workers.
- Encourage a safety culture where women have the right and responsibility to refuse unsafe work.
Discourage risk-taking, short-cutting and cost-cutting directives which place production above personal safety.
- Provide nutritious food options and choices, including vegan and vegetarian alternatives.
- Acknowledge the unique challenges faced by women in their professional and care giving roles.
- Understand that there are a lot unknown around what is safe exposure to industry-based chemicals during pregnancy.
- Develop clear policies around safe working conditions for pregnant employees.
- Influence industry to accommodate working mothers, through the provision of childcare supports and more flexible working hours and locations.
- Create and increase designated spaces for women through mine sites.
Counter all forms of workplace sexual harassment and intimidation.
- Provide women with safe spaces to freely ask questions about the work culture, shift work, camp life, and gender and power relations within the industry.
- Increase opportunities for networking and sharing amongst women in mining.
- Provide women with confidential spaces (off-site and on-site) where they can voice work-related grievances, concerns and experiences without fear of reprisal.
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