Is there a relationship between gender and safety?

Is there a relationship between gender and safety in mining?

The causes of inappropriate behaviours are many and complex. One factor may be an existing culture in the workplace and what is perceived to be the correct actions to ensure a person is accepted or successful in that environment (e.g. “toughen up princess”).

In 2010, Dr Dean Laplonge ran a series of workshops for Resources Safety as part of the Mines Safety Roadshow. Industry input was sought to understand:

  • how widely accepted “tough” behaviours and communication styles affect safety in the workplace
  • how toughness might be redefined
  • what resources and training are required to support positive cultural change.

The mining industry in Australia is still largely a male-dominated industry, with about 85 per cent of the total workforce being men. It is also considered to be a masculine industry where behaviours normally associated with toughness and strength are generally preferred.

In this kind of environment, people may feel they:

  • cannot say or do anything about inappropriate behaviour for fear they will be seen as a “wimp”
  • need to emulate what is considered ‘masculine behaviour’ to fit in (e.g. increased risk taking)
  • need to bolster their ‘masculinity’ by displaying homophobic behaviours
  • have to act more aggressively (verbal and physical) to get respect.

This can lead to inappropriate behaviours and compromise the health and wellbeing of individuals, the safety of the work group and the safety culture that helps to protect everyone.

A summary of Dr Laplonge’s findings and recommendations are available in his publication below.

Toughness in the workplace - roadshow report 2011 - 1070 Kb

This report responds to a number of cultural and human behavioural issues relating to gender that affect safety on mine sites.

How can inappropriate gendered behaviours be addressed?

In response to the roadshow workshops and Dr Laplonge’s report, Resources Safety published a workshop planner series exploring the relationship between gender and safety in mining. Cultural change should be driven from the top and must engage the workforce to ensure its effectiveness. Hence, the planner series is specifically designed for use by senior managers, including the board of directors.

It provides a good starting point to initiate discussions about gender and safety, and can be used to identify gender-related issues that may affect an organisation’s health and safety performance. This information can then be drawn upon to develop a strategy to address any workplace issues, ranging from the boardroom to individual work areas.

The Gender and safety in mining - workshop planner series document below is a management tool to raise awareness of issues relating to gender that affect safety on mine sites, and specifically identify areas of concern for the organisation’s leadership.

Gender and safety in mining - workshop planner series - 920 Kb

This report responds to a number of cultural and human behavioural issues relating to gender that affect safety on mine sites.