Even though in today’s workplace, men and women are treated as equals, women experience fewer workplace injuries than men. While you might expect the number of workplace injuries to be nearly even between men and women, the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that women only report one-tenth as many on-the-job injuries as their male counterparts do. 

The question remains why this is true. Are women just more careful than men in the workplace or do they get injured as often and just not report their workplace injuries? The reasons for the disparity are more complex than that.

Men Outnumber Women in Labor-Intensive Jobs

First and foremost, there are fewer women than men in the general workforce. Many women delay their initial entry into the workforce by pursuing higher education, some delay going back to work after the birth of a child, and some choose to permanently leave the workforce to become stay at home mothers. Historically, women disproportionately take on most of the responsibility for childcare and this unpaid responsibility can prevent women from seeking paid employment opportunities.

Although women have made impressive gains and now make up 46% of the labor force in the United States, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, some of the statistics haven’t been updated to include intensive studies of womens’ workplace injuries. It’s believed that women report fewer injuries because they worry about proving themselves as capable as men and don’t report relatively minor incidents.

Women often encounter interpersonal issues when entering jobs dominated by men [source]. They have to work against detrimental stereotypes and gender norms in order to succeed. Therefore, to prove that they belong and can work as hard as any male coworker, women might downplay the severity of a workplace injury or fail to report it. This show of bravado can not only skew the number of reported workplace injuries, but also leave a hurt employee without proper medical treatment.

Women have increasingly taken on heavy manufacturing, mining, construction, landscaping, and agricultural jobs that were formerly considered male jobs. Women seem less likely to be injured than men because they take fewer risks, and men in the workplace often step in when job’s are especially risky. Men also tend to show off around mixed company.

Disparities in Worker Claims

There are also big differences in the types and severity of workplace accidents between men and women. National statistics demonstrate that men have higher job fatality rates than women. Men are 10 times more likely to be killed on the job than women [source].

In 2017 alone, 4,761 men died from their workplace injuries, but only 386 women were killed. The primary reason for this is that men typically fill the roles with higher associated risk and as a result they suffer more serious and deadly accidents than women. Even though there are more women entering these fields of work, most heavy equipment operators are still men. In order to be an equipment operator, you typically only need a highschool diploma or equivalent, a valid driver’s license, and the ability to work outside in all weather conditions. However, some of these roles also require heavy lifting and that can bar women from applying. 

Indoor Work More Common Among Women

Men greatly outnumber women in dangerous industries that include oil and gas extraction, commercial fishing, logging, construction and structural steel production. Conversely, women outnumber men in certain indoor careers that include working with computers, hospitality jobs, and financial jobs. 

These environments ranked among the safest workplaces with an average of 3.5 workplace deaths per 100,000 workers. These “desk jobs” typically require college degrees or some form of higher education beyond high school. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, women account for over 56% of the nation’s college student body.

Keeping Safe at Work

Most accidents involving women happen to younger women who haven’t had extensive training. This typically reduces the amount of their compensation claims because younger people heal and bounce back faster. Men, however, are more likely to be injured when they’re older, and their claims are higher because they have longer healing times and complications caused by aging.

Regardless of sex or age, it’s important to follow your company’s safety guidelines and other regulations like those issued by OSHA. If you have questions, ask the appropriate supervisor and not another random employee. One of the most common reasons for workplace injuries is inattention to the task at hand, so it’s important to stay focused on your job to reduce your risk of injury.

Companies should offer enough training for people to perform their work safely. If you feel any work or assigned task work is dangerous, you can refuse to do it until operational changes are made. These dangers might include faulty or old equipment, a sloppy workplace where many tripping hazards are found or any risky job that any average person would consider too dangerous.

Applying for Benefits After an Injury

Even though most workplace accidents happen to men, accidents can happen to anyone. If you’ve been hurt in an accident at work, the resulting injury might keep you from going back to work. Before changing careers to find something you can still do, applying for benefits or making an insurance claim to compensate you for your injuries at work would be a more sensible solution. Companies aren’t allowed to put pressure on you not to file work injury benefits and settle for some minor payment, though these can often seem generous at first glance.

Unfortunately, your injury could result in lifelong pain, disability, and extensive medical costs. That’s why it’s important for women — and men — to hire a worker’s compensation attorney or at least consult with one after being injured on the job. It’s important to seek medical attention right away and document your injuries with doctor’s notes and photographs so you can provide your lawyer with evidence. Since injuries can worsen over time, it’s imperative that you don’t delay.