Finally, a while ago I did some articles on the Radium Girls – early 20th century female factory workers who contracted radiation poisoning in the course of their work. One of the most stark examples of occupational disease in history, things have changed a bit but not fast enough. To date, the lack of research (and lack of funding) on women’s health makes them extremely vulnerable, especially those who are unable to obtain appropriate compensation for occupational breast cancers.
These are all complex issues, not easy to resolve simply by giving them a nod in an opportunistic press release. We must also consider that gendered factors such as race, class, gender identity and sexual orientation can exacerbate and transform these issues. And it shouldn’t be up to women alone to solve them. These are issues that affect everyone.
Indeed, the dismantling of oppressive and patriarchal systems is also valuable for men. In the same first issue I worked on, I wrote about the disturbingly high suicide rates in Canada’s male-dominated construction industry. Mental health is still so taboo among men, who fear they won’t be able to talk about their issues for fear of being labeled as “weak” or “frail”. This stigma exists because of, among other things, toxic masculine ideals around how we perceive strength.
Workplaces are often seen as a mirror of society as a whole, we have seen the impacts of societal movements such as #MeToo or Black Lives Matter on the working environment. But workplaces can – and should – also be catalysts for change. If there’s one big lesson I’ve learned from working on COS, it’s that health and safety professionals can really help push for something better.
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of pro OHS. More than ever, security practitioners have the ear of organizational decision makers. Heck, these are organizational decision makers!