Women’s Health and Safety at Work Toolkit


Working women’s health and safety at work is a major priority for the STUC Women’s Committee. In workplaces where mainly or only women work, hazards are often unrecognized or under-researched.

In workplaces where mainly men work, women are often expected to wear inappropriate safety clothes and differences between workplace health issues for men and women are insufficiently addressed.

Health issues that only affect women need to be central to the agenda alongside those that only affect men. Above all prevention is better than cure – we want healthy, safe workplaces and working lives for all.

We have produced this guide with the help of the STUC affiliates. A special thank you to Unite the Union who supplied the majority of the source material for this project. It is designed for trade union reps, shop stewards and officers to help you negotiate with employers, represent members and to make a real difference.

womens health

Why we must take action

Women now make up about half the workforce, but because historically more men worked than women, occupational health and safety for women is often ignored and misunderstood. Here are six reasons we must take action.

• Many workplace risks, such as lifting and twisting, exposure to chemicals, long hours, stress, high or low temperatures, may affect women more seriously than men because of physical differences, work and home lives.

• The jobs many women do, such as cleaning, caring, clerical work or call centres,are often for long hours and repetitive.

• There are physical differences from men, but chemical exposure limits, uniforms and protective equipment are often designed for a man of average weight or height.

• Housework and caring duties mean women can double their exposure to chemicals and heavy lifting.

• Discrimination against women can heighten safety hazards. Low pay and income, the burden of caring for others or domestic violence can add to workplace stress; women working alone or on night shifts may feel more vulnerable.

• Pregnancy, menstruation and the menopause can make safety risks – such as standing for too long, insufficient toilet breaks or working at high temperatures –more serious.

Unionised workplaces are safer for women - Research has shown that unionised workplaces are safer than those without safety reps and safety committees. So workplace reps, equality reps and safety reps play a key role in negotiating better health and safety for members at work.


What the Toolkit Covers

This toolkit focuses on health and safety issues that, in the main, are specific to women in the workplace. It is not intended to cover all the health and safety issues that affect women at work.

Click on the links below to find out more about the issues covered in this tool kit

Women’s Health and Safety at Work Toolkit

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