Fair or not, recent research is indicating that when faced with identical tasks, women are more apt to report injuries than men. But some experts believe that the score between the two could be evened up with the help of ergonomics.
Two new studies, reported by CNN.com, sought to find out how basic training for military recruits impacted injury rates across gender lines. The first study, focusing on the British army’s recruits, found that when men and women participated in identical basic training programs, the female recruits were eight times more likely than the male recruits to be discharged for injuries.
A similar study of female recruits in the U.S. Army also showed that women reported a higher rate of injuries than did their male counterparts during basic training, but concluded that it was the level of fitness of the recruits at the beginning of the study that played the bigger role in determining the likelihood of injury. This conclusion was arrived at after researchers determined that by the end of basic training, the females had “narrowed the injury gap significantly,” and that overall, the male recruits were in better physical condition upon starting basic training than were the female recruits, reported CNN.
In the workplace, women are also more apt to report injuries. A 2003 study by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency found that female office workers reported more eyestrain, fatigue, and wrist and upper hand pain from using computers than did their male counterparts. And a 2000-2001 Canadian study found that women in that country were at a greater risk of developing work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) when tackling traditionally male jobs (farming, forestry, fishing, mining, processing, manufacturing and utility work) than were the males who performed the same work.
While these studies don’t bode well for women in the workplace, the problem may not lie in the gender of the worker but in the workplace itself. The Japanese study of office workers found that the workspace design had the greatest affect on the injuries reported by female office workers and that employing ergonomics when designing office tools or furniture to better fit the female workers could positively impact injury rates in women. Additionally, the British army’s research found that female recruits reported fewer injuries when they participated in a basic training program that was specifically designed for women.
Sources: CNN.com; Ergonomics Today