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Women, construction and health and safety (H&S): South African and Tanzanian perspectives

Journal of Engineering, Design and Technology

ISSN: 1726-0531

Article publication date: 1 March 2006



Construction by its very nature constitutes a challenge in terms of health and safety (H&S) and ergonomics as it exposes workers to a range of health, safety, and ergonomic hazards, manual handling included. Internationally, women constitute a minor percentage of the construction workforce. Furthermore, perceptions exist that women are not suited to construction, that construction work is too physical for women, and that the image of the industry discourages participation by women. Whether or not perceptions are just, they are important as people act on them. A study was initiated to determine perceptions relative to: participation of women in general; their role; their capacity; their impact; their potential contribution; barriers to their participation; and general and gender specific issues. The paper reports on studies conducted in South Africa and Tanzania, the salient findings being: women have a role in construction; increased participation by women will contribute to improving the image of construction; women have requirements related to their gender and roles; some construction materials constitute a manual materials handling problem to women, and current welfare facilities for women (such as medical support or child care) are inadequate. The paper concludes that endeavours are necessary to change attitudes, promote participation by women, accommodate women, and improve conditions, particularly H&S.



English, J., Haupt, T.C. and Smallwood, J.J. (2006), "Women, construction and health and safety (H&S): South African and Tanzanian perspectives", Journal of Engineering, Design and Technology, Vol. 4 No. 1, pp. 18-28.



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