Busting the strength myth

The old myth that women aren’t strong enough to do blokes’ jobs is still around, but it takes more than just brute strength to get a job done.

Along with a decent level of fitness, a combo of skills is needed to make it in the trades – including balance, dexterity and stamina. But at the end of the day, it’s about working safely as a team and using the tools and techniques available for everyone to work smarter, not harder, and avoid injuries.

Teamwork makes the dream work.

Kane Williamson might be captain of the Black Caps but you’ll never see him open the bowling. He’s a batting specialist. That’s his role in the team. It’s no different with your team on-site. You need some all-rounders but you’ve also got to have your specialists – and women can be both!

It’s less about strength and more about fitness and technique.

Muscles develop over time with the repeated use of tools and equipment. When starting an apprenticeship, everyone struggles with heavy gear until they build up the specific techniques and muscle fitness to handle it.

Any physical job requires training of the muscles, whether it’s working as a nurse or working as a welder. One woman we spoke to said it best:

“When I first started working in the transport industry and lifting heavy things, I did need to build up some strength but I got stronger on the job. To me it’s about technique. It’s about working smart, because if you’re not working smart, you can injure yourself – and that happens to men, too.”

The reality is, a bloke with a few niggles or injuries from his time in the trades could actually be less physically able to do some tasks than a fit, injury-free woman.

One of the employers we spoke to summed it up:

“You know, lifting is not a problem. In our trade we lift a lot of cabinets and things like that. These days, with bloody lifting aids, and techniques to lifting, we just get those practices in place. With health and safety you’re not allowed to carry any more than however many kilos anyways. So all those things – there’s actually no excuses to not have a woman in trade. There’s none at all.”

Here are 4 ways to help all staff with manual lifting tasks:

  • Follow the basics of workplace safety.
  • Use mechanical/lifting aids where possible.
  • Be smart about delegating tasks.
  • Plan regular breaks and rotate jobs.

It’s not about how strong you are. It’s about doing the hard yakka as a team, doing it smarter, and using the equipment and techniques that make it easier and safer for everyone - and everyone can play a role in figuring out the smartest, safest ways to get the tough stuff done.

When workers are actively engaged and involved in health and safety decisions, everyone benefits; a healthier, safer workplace has a positive impact on performance and productivity. Here are a few ways to make that happen:

  • Create a culture where it’s OK to say, “Hey, we need a safer or smarter way to do this to protect everyone involved.”
  • Give your workers a reasonable opportunity to express their views and raise work health or safety concerns, and contribute to the decision-making process.
  • Ask your workers to suggest ways to design, or redesign, the workplace to minimise manual handling risks.

This info from Worksafe has even more ways to get workers engaged and participating in protecting everyone’s health and safety on-site