Known Hazards: The 6 Most Common Injuries for Women at Work
Broadly speaking, women endure psychological trauma in the workplace at greater frequency than their male colleagues. In 2015, an Australian study found that women are 1.9 times as likely to experience work-related “mental disorders.” For their part, men were 1.4 times as likely to suffer physical injuries in the workplace.
Up close though, the picture changes. According to the study’s abstract, “[a]djusting for occupational group reversed the gender difference in musculoskeletal and tendon injury claim rates.”
In other words, women experience such injuries at higher rates than men, and the lower overall frequency is attributable to underrepresentation in high-risk occupations.
As this interactive graph shows, workplace injuries occur with greater frequency in male-dominated occupations like utilities and motor vehicle manufacturing.
With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at six of the most common workplace injuries for women.
Lower Back Injuries
Lower back injury is a leading cause of low back pain, one of the most common chronic ailments in America. It’s more likely than not that you’ll experience persistent low back pain at some point in your life — if you’re not already a statistic.
Common causes of on-the-job lower back injuries include repeated lifting and turning, standing in place for long periods, walking with heavy loads, poor sitting posture, and repetitive side-to-side motion. Persistent low back pain can lead to other, more serious issues, such as herniated discs and opioid abuse.
Upper back and neck injuries frequently have a similar set of causes as lower back injuries: repetitive motion, craning, standing for long periods, and the like. Unfortunately, neck injuries are just as stubborn as lower back injuries. Left untreated, they can substantially impact quality of life over time, and may lead to complications that reduce range of motion or sensation.
Hand and Wrist Injuries
Hand and wrist injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, affect workers across the income and industry spectrum — from entry-level food-service and manufacturing workers to white-collar professionals. Common causes include overuse, repetitive motion, and poor office ergonomy.
Motor Vehicle Accidents
Though men are more likely to hold driver jobs, motor vehicle accidents don’t discriminate. Accident and fatality rates are just as high among women as men.
Sexual harassment is a major source of physical and psychological trauma in the workplace. By the numbers, women are more vulnerable than men to the full spectrum of sexual harassment: verbal abuse, unwanted advances, inappropriate touching, sexual assault. Beyond the physical and emotional impact of sexual harassment, there’s a career dimension as well: Women who escalate complaints are subject to retaliation that may impede their professional advancement.
Workplace violence can be random or targeted, but the numbers don’t lie: Women and men alike fall victim. Women experiencing domestic abuse in the home are especially vulnerable to targeted violence.
Have you ever experienced one of these on-the-job injuries? Please share in the comments section below.