Women love to complain that men have undue advantages at the workplace, including privileged access to the best-paying jobs and higher pay and benefits.
But they rarely mention that men also perform the vast majority of the most dangerous jobs – and as a result, they suffer the highest injury and fatality rates.
It’s not even close.
Last December, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its annual report on workplace fatalities. It found that in 2017 4,761 men had died on the job compared to 386 women in 2017.
In statistical terms, the fatality rate for men was about 10 times that of women: 5.7 per 100,000 vs. 0.6 per 100,000 for women.
A major cause of the disparity is the difference in the types of jobs that men and women perform.
Women generally work indoors, in office settings, while men are more likely to be working outside with potentially hazardous operating equipment.
Which male workers are most at risk? Commercial fishermen, loggers, aircraft pilots and roofers. By contrast, librarians, teachers, scientific workers, and nurses — all heavily feminized professions – are among the safest.
Studies have shown roofing work to be especially dangerous. Since 1992, falls from roofs have accounted for one-third of all deaths in the construction industry, and three-quarters of all fall deaths, according to a separate BLS report.
There is also an ethnic skew at work. Construction is an industry in which Hispanic men figure prominently. In 2015, over a third of construction workers nationwide were Hispanic, a large percentage of them found in the most dangerous jobs, especially roofing.
Another reason for the high fatality rate in roofing and other dangerous jobs is a lack of safety training. Over a third of construction firms lack written safety guidelines and a quarter of construction workers only receive safety training monthly or annually.
That means less than half the construction workforce is getting regular safety training to avoid slips and falls, lacerations and being struck by equipment.
A 2013 report by the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that Hispanic workers were the most vulnerable to injury on construction jobs. The report found that Hispanic workers – many of them recently arrived Spanish-speaking immigrant – are often unaware of standard safety procedures, receive little or no job training, do not speak or comprehend English and may have work styles different from their coworkers and employers.
Improving cross-cultural communication skills, in part by hiring more bilingual crew chiefs and site managers, has become a top priority in the US construction industry. Still, the fatality rate for Hispanic workers continues to climb, according to the ASSE-NIOSH report.
There’s another element that conservatives especially are loathe to consider: the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), founded in 1971, has a limited budget and highly circumscribed enforcement authority.
The number of OSHA safety inspectors – about 2,000 total – is appallingly low. When OSHA does detect violations, it can levy fines but they’re too low to affect a firm’s operations. Companies just take a prospective OSHA fine threat as a cost of doing business.
But these days, it’s hard not to think how different the safety issue might be if women were dying or getting injured at the workplace in the proportions that men are.
For some men, working dangerous jobs without much protection is a badge of their masculinity. But it’s also one of the burdens men assume by living in a hyper-feminized society in leading women’s advocates have come to view men as unnecessary — and even expendable.
Job segregation? Yes, and when it comes to workplace safety, it’s a huge boon to women.