250105 Social Hazards and Workplace Health and Safety

Monday, October 31, 2011: 2:45 PM

Miriam Lara , Writer/Researcher, A Wokers' Guide to Health and Safety, Hesperian, Berkeley, CA
Objective and Background: In response to requests from international advocates for workers health, Hesperian is developing a resource manual on OHS for workers, titled A Worker's Guide to Health and Safety, in which we introduce the concept of Social Hazards – discrimination, harassment and violence based on gender, ethnic and cultural differences; low pay; reprisals against organizing; etc. – as determining factors in health and safety in workplaces.

While researching global export industries – garment, shoes, and electronics – we discovered variable levels of information available about traditional OHS hazards. However, we discovered virtually no information regarding Social Hazards, although the majority of complaints about work from the mostly women workers cited them as main causes of stress and illness in their lives.

Methods: From our need assessment process, we identified social issues workers were facing and developed the Social Hazards module based on these issues. Between October 2010 and February 2011, these materials were field tested in 12 countries, with 20 organizations, including women's and OHS organizations, unions, and labor groups.

Results: Qualitative results from Mexico, Indonesia, Philippines, China, and the US show the social hazards framework strengthens workers capacity to improve health and safety by giving social hazards validity as occupational health dangers; many groups have already begun implementing the concept in trainings.

Conclusion: Introducing the concept of “social hazards” in the factory can improve the effectiveness of health and safety programs for women workers by moving from hazard-centered to human-centered programming, and beyond gender-sensitive to women-centered frameworks.

Learning Areas:
Occupational health and safety

Learning Objectives:
Describe the addition of 'social hazards' to the traditional OHS framework, and demonstrate it's value in re-framing OHS to better reflect the lived reality of workers, especially women workers.

Keywords: Occupational Health, Women's Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the main writer/researcher on the book material that is being presented.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.