NIOSH Provides Occupational Safety and Health Program for Women in a Bid to Increase Workforce

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BY: Michelle Liew

There is an increasing demand for the involvement of women as safety and health officers (SHO) in the construction sector or in charge of maintenance work in factories and in high places.

Due to this, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has provided for an Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Program for women.

NIOSH Resident Trainer, Mohd Razman Ismail, said the program exposes participants to safety aspects in a theoretical form and provides practical training in the field with experienced trainers, in addition to having to sit an exam to test their understanding.

He said that women have the same capabilities as men and can do heavy work including jobs that require being in high places, rugged and rescuing victims.

Although the safety course for working at high places is optional and not mandatory, employers are encouraged to send employees to increase their knowledge and safety measures to practice according to the risks of their jobs.

So far, safety courses at high places are still not mandatory. For most companies, they usually only provide general guidelines.

In terms of enforcement (to oblige) take this course is not there yet.

"So, we hope more employers send their employees to attend this course so that after the training is over, these individuals become agents of change.

"For example, changing work methods that are less safe, if previously the equipment for climbing high places was not provided or the rate was high, so it is hoped that it can be corrected.

"Therefore, this is the first time we have held a special course for women. Before, there were women who participated, but the response was quite moderate. Some may be shy or uncomfortable training with men," he said.

Participants were exposed to several legal provisions related to occupational safety including the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994 and the Factories and Machinery Act 1967.

"They are in class for theory sessions, in addition to focusing on practical training so that they can adapt the knowledge learned to practice when they return to the workplace later.

"Participants have to sit for the exam, if they don't pass either the theory paper or practical training they have to retake it to get a certificate," he said.

NIOSH also provides a consultation space for participants related to improvements in aspects of safety in the workplace according to their respective needs.

"Here, we teach best practices, for example personal protective equipment (PPE) is recommended for safety purposes, but when returning to work it is not necessary to follow what is suggested.

"For example, for a small company, it may not be necessary to have all safety equipment, at least there are basic equipment such as safety harnesses to protect the body from falling from high places, safety hats, life ropes and safety shoes," he said.

According to Mohd Razman, accidents involving high places are riskier, for example falling from a place as high as two meters can cause serious injuries including a broken waist.

Participants were given guidance on how to wear PPE correctly, how to install and knot safety ropes to climb high structures and were required to undergo rescue training at high places.

"The correct way of rescue is very important according to the allotted time, a maximum of 10 minutes. The victim who is completely hanging wearing a harness will be caught by the device. Most likely the blood is blocked and does not flow to the brain causing a lack of oxygen.

"Victims can pass out and if they don't get enough oxygen for a long time, it can cause death," he said.

He said, the career is considered awkward for women, although gender is not an important issue according to all the safety rules set.

"There is no difference between male and female SHOs. The safety rules remain the same, but the approach is different. Women have agility, for example in rescue training, the time taken (for rescue work) is the same as the male group," he said.