Health & Safety Testing – A world built for men

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2020 National Women's Conference
23 October 2019
Carried as Amended

For too long, women have been forgotten in the design process. Criado Perez�s recent book �Invisible Women� explains how men�s dominance of the design industry has had a major impact on women�s health and safety.Not only do less women than men work in the design industry, designs are generally created with men in mind, and more often than not, designs are tested on men. �Invisible Women� shows that the consequences of treating men as the default option, or women just as smaller men – if they get considered at all – has wide-reaching implications for everything (and everyone) from snow clearing to seat-belts and many branches of medicine. She argues that this remains a man�s world because those who built it didn�t take gender differences into account. Some examples include: 1)71% of women wear protective work clothing that isn�t designed for women�s bodies. Ill fitting PPE can be dangerous and lead to injury as it simply isn�t doing what it�s designed for (for example police stab vests). 2) Tools are usually designed for men, often making them more difficult for women to use. They are often heavy and cumbersome to hold. 3)Most offices are five degrees too cold for women, because the formula to determine their temperature was developed in the 1960s based on the metabolic resting rate of a 40-year-old, 70kg man. Women’s metabolisms are slower. 4)Women in Britain are 50% more likely to be misdiagnosed following a heart attack because heart failure trials generally use male participants. 5)Cars are designed around the body of �Reference Man�, so although men are more likely to crash, women involved in collisions are nearly 50% more likely to be seriously hurt.6)Seat belts � when safety regulations were originally imposed on car manufactures in the 1950�s, regulators wanted to require the use of 2 crash test dummies, to accommodate for gender differences. However, the industry pushed back on regulations until the requirement was reduced to a single crash dummy, the average man. This means that seatbelts more often than not do not fit women correctly. Statistics show that women drivers are 13% more likely to die wearing seatbelts. In 2011 the first female crash test dummies were required in safety testing, but the new dummies appear to be scaled down versions of the male dummy. In addition seatbelts are still not tested on pregnant women. . 7)The average smartphone � 5.5 inches long � is too big for most women�s hands, and it doesn�t often fit in our pockets. 8)Speech recognition software is trained on recordings of male voices. Google�s version is 70% more likely to understand men. One woman reported that her car�s voice-command system only listened to her husband, even when he was sitting in the passenger seat. 9)Many women in our union are exposed to hazardous substances at work and at home, for example when cleaning. Again the risk assessment effect of this exposure is based on a man. Women have different hormones and immune systems together with thinner skin and therefore exposure to these chemicals affects women differently. Women also have a lower threshold to the level of toxins they can be exposed to before they are absorbed by the body. Despite women undertaking a disproportionate amount of domestic and workplace cleaning tasks, the majority of cleaning products are tested on men.These are some examples of the shortcomings of a world designed by and for men. This is a reminder of why we need women in the leadership of the institutions that shape every aspect of our lives. We ask the national women�s committee to:a) Work with the national health and safety committee to build a campaign for:i) Testing and risk assessments to be gender specific.ii) Employers to avoid suppliers who do not provide PPE that is purpose made for women. b)Work with LAOS to ensure that health and safety training recognises and raises awareness of this issue. c)Work with Labour Link to call for gender specific health and safety testing and risk assessments to be mandatory.