Safety and Health Empowerment for Women in Trades

Washington State Department Of Transportation photo

Welcome to SHEWT!

SHEWT (Safety and Health Empowerment for Women in Trades) was a three-year, multi-phase study of the effects of working in the construction industry on the health and safety of women. It was carried out by researchers at the University of Washington in collaboration with community groups serving tradeswomen in Washington State. 

Watch the Department of Labor Women's Bureau's webinar "Respectful Workplaces and Health and Safety Empowerment for Women in Trades" to learn more about SHEWT and other research projects on tradeswomen

 

ABOUT SHEWT

Study Overview

Safety and Health Empowerment for Women in Trades (SHEWT) was a multi-phase study aimed at reducing tradeswomen's risk of workplace health and safety hazards through research and program development. Construction workers experience many health and safety concerns including slips/trips/falls, being struck by/against machinery, musculoskeletal disorders, and chronic health hazards from contaminants. Women workers face additional gender-specific hazards such as inadequate physical protection, unsanitary facilities, and stress from discrimination and harassment. As opportunities for women in the trades continue to grow in the Pacific Northwest, better understanding of tradeswomen's unique exposure to workplace hazards is needed.

SHEWT was a collaboration between the University of Washington Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences and community partners Washington Women in Trades, the Washington State Labor Education and Research Center, the University of Oregon Labor Education and Research Center, and the Washington State Building Trades Council's Pre-Apprenticeship Construction Education (PACE) program.

Funding and support for this project has been provided by the State of Washington, Department of Labor and Industries, Safety and Health Investment Projects.

Female linemen 2

Photo by Matt Hins

Methods

Phase I: Research

During March and April 2015, we conducted four focus groups in western and eastern Washington with women and men working in various construction trades. These groups discussed physical and psychosocial risks that specifically affect women at work, as well as strategies to address these hazards. Based on findings from the focus groups, we developed a detailed questionnaire to more fully assess workplace risks. The questionnaire was administered online, on paper, and via phone interviews to approximately 300 tradeswomen and tradesmen throughout Washington State during the fall/winter of 2015 and spring of 2016. Three follow-up focus groups were held in May and June 2016 to interpret the survey findings and discuss potential programs to reduce workplace risk.

Read our Phase I Final Report to learn more about study methods and findings.

To learn more about the primary survey findings, read the peer-reviewed academic article published in the Annals of Work Exposures and Health.

Download our SHEWT Fact Sheet  for survey data and participant quotes.

Phase II: Program Development

Based on the findings from Phase I, we developed a pilot mentorship program to empower women apprentices in western Washington to recognize their workplace stressors and advocate for safer workplaces. We trained 15 journeywomen and journeymen in early 2017 to act as mentors for 24 women apprentices in the Puget Sound region. Participating trades included carpenters, electricians and line workers, ironworkers, laborers, and pipe trades. After voluntary matching, pairs communicated regularly over a six-month period and received support from program staff. While six months was too short a time to fully evaluate the impact of mentorship, program findings suggest an increase in apprentices' self-confidence to work safely on jobsites and report safety concerns. Program results are being shared with leaders in the construction community who are working towards a more inclusive, safe, and equitable workplace for all workers.

Read our Phase II Final Report to learn more about the program's design (including mentor training materials) and impact on participants.

Download our Mentorship Evaluation Summary for program highlights!

Goals

The SHEWT study was dedicated to supporting worker health and safety. By identifying the primary work-related health and safety risks to tradeswomen, we hoped to inform intervention strategies to address this population’s health challenges. 

Advisory Committee

Noah Seixas, PhD, UW Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences

Nancy Simcox, MS, UW Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences

Hendrika Meischke, PhD, UW Department of Health Services

Bert Stover, PhD, UW Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences

Hannah Curtis, MPH, UW Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences

Jo Scherer, Washington Women in Trades

Cindy Payne, Washington Women in Trades

Alice Lockridge, MS Phys Ed, Seattle City Light

Sarah Laslett, MA, University of Oregon Labor Education and Research Center

Kelly Coogan-Gehr, PhD, Washington State Labor Education and Research Center

Diane Davies, Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council's Pre-Apprenticeship Construction Education program

Lee Newgent, Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council's Pre-Apprenticeship Construction Education program

 

 

Washington State Department Of Transportation photo

OTHER RESOURCES

Center for Construction Research and Training

Construction Center of Excellence

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

OSHA report "Women in the Construction Workplace: Providing Equitable Safety and Health Protection"

Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc.

UMASS Boston Labor Research Center report “Unfinished Business”

Washington State Department of Labor and Industries

Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO

Washington State Labor Education and Research Center

Washington Women in Trades

Women Building Conference