To ensure the health and safety of females in the physically demanding occupations associated with mining, in an environment previously designed for males, require adequate risk assessment and maximising of the fit between the person, the environment and the occupation
Gender differences as documented in literature, and reference to past studies conducted within the mining where females are integrated into previously male dominated areas were reviewed. The information served as background when analysing female employee statistics from the Rehabilitation and Functional Assessment (RFA) system.
Results suggested that 43% of female new recruits are not fit for physically demanding workin mining. This can mainly be attributed to the following:
• Genetic predisposition of females. Females present with physiological disadvantages when performing physically demanding work.
• Workplace design: the design of equipment, machinery as well as the layout of the workplace caters for the 5th - 95th percentiles of the male population.
• Lifestyle: females tend to have a less active lifestyle than male counterparts.
When reviewing literature and referring to studies done throughout the mining industry, it is evident that females’ physiological composition differs from that of their male counterparts. In many instances (e.g. when required to perform manual material handling) these differences impact on females’ capacity to perform manual type of work. Furthermore, machinery and equipment as used in the mining industry, has mainly been designed to suit a male population. Due to differences in body size and dimensions, females are often placed at a disadvantage from an ergonomic perspective when required to operate machinery and to use equipment. Evident from the statistics and also documented in other studies is the fact that females can compensate for their physiological disadvantages by means of conditioning programs. Females with conditioning have a higher pass rate (14% higher) than new recruits without any conditioning.