$75,000 Susan Harwood Grant Awarded to Kent State Geauga to Provide Occupational Safety & Health Training to Protect Women in Geauga County

NOTE: Kent State Geauga’s workplace safety training program, at the time of initial publication of this document (10/2023), is funded by a grant of $75,000 in federal funds, which constitutes 100 percent of the program budget. Zero percent, or $0 of the program budget, is financed through nongovernmental sources.

Workforce training—in both English and Spanish—is coming soon to small businesses in Geauga County, focusing on safety and health hazards that disproportionately affect women workers.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is part of the United States Department of Labor. As part of a $75,000 grant from OSHA’s Susan Harwood Training Grants Program, Kent State University at Geauga is building upon a federally funded, no-cost training program designed to help ensure safe and healthy workplaces in our community. Consistent with its ongoing commitment to lead regional workforce development, Kent State Geauga first offered training sessions in chemical/health hazards safety and workplace violence prevention this past summer.

Now, plans are in motion to provide training sessions—in both English and Spanish—in Summer 2024, focusing on safety and health hazards that particularly affect women workers in small businesses and organizations. Increased awareness of health hazards impacting women workers should result in improved organizational safety outcomes in many sectors, including construction, agriculture, manufacturing, service, and office work.

Lance Williams, Director of Operations and Special Projects at Kent State Geauga, co-wrote the successful Training and Educational Materials Development grant application with Professor of Biological Sciences Dr. Sanhita Gupta and Associate Professor of Biological Sciences Dr. Erin Bailey. 

Dean Angela Spalsbury, Lance Williams, Dr. Gupta, Dr. Bailey

The team utilized OSHA’s grant to develop training materials addressing Safety and Health Training for Women. Pilot training sessions will be in-person in Geauga County and online for workers located outside the county. The forthcoming training is designed to “make all workers in our community aware of the risks and problems that women face,” Dr. Gupta says. 

“What constitutes a threat to women may not be a threat to men, and vice versa. It is important that we recognize these differences and accommodate them. Increased awareness of worker safety gaps will make all employees safer.”

Hazards to Working Women
Dr. Bailey explains further, “Since females have significant anatomical differences from males (e.g., females are shorter and have less muscle mass), everyone must be aware of how to make the workplace a safer place for all different body types. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) states that women are more susceptible than men to tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, respiratory diseases, anxiety, and stress. Some of these issues are simply the result of the anatomical and physiological differences between genders.”  

Research also shows that gender-specific stress factors harm women workers beyond general work stressors, including sexual and gender discrimination, the demands of work-home life balance, and childcare concerns. 

“Given all these factors, women workers experience a complex and distinct range of vulnerabilities in the workplace. Therefore, this presents an opportunity for rural businesses to minimize any threats to women workers,” Dr. Bailey says.

Bridging the Language Gap
Kent State Geauga’s development of training materials in both English and Spanish will help address language barriers in many local industries that employ a significant number of Spanish-speaking workers.

The 2020 Census shows that Ohio’s Hispanic population has more than doubled since the year 2000. While Geauga County has a low proportion of Hispanic residents, nearby counties of Cuyahoga, Lorain, Summit, and Lake are among the top 10 counties in the state with the highest Hispanic populations. They are welcome to take advantage of training sessions offered online.

“Generally speaking, language barriers in the workplace can affect occupational safety, as the interpretation of processes, procedures, and policies may get lost in translation,” Williams says. “Since these counties are within our geographical sphere, we intend on serving this population through the development of training materials in Spanish.” 
Rising Tide Lifts All
In collaboration with community partners, Kent State Geauga’s ongoing investment in economic development benefits everyone in the region, from residents and underserved workers to business interests and local institutions.
Geauga County’s Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) includes a goal of promoting health and well-being for women. According to a 2018 Geauga Community Health Needs Assessment, 43% of adult anxiety, stress, or depression was attributed to job stress.  

“By developing a women worker safety plan along with high-quality training, we believe this will impact the well-being of working women from a community health perspective,” Dr. Bailey says. “Since Kent State Geauga is the only higher education institution in the county, we can provide educational training to the entire community.”    

Historically speaking, this marks the first time safety training will be offered specifically to protect women workers in the region, Dr. Gupta adds. With the support of local partners such as Geauga Growth Partnership (GGP), Kent State Geauga’s Safety and Health Training for Women can mend a longstanding gap in training that can improve women’s health and safety outcomes while strengthening Geauga County’s business network.

In becoming aware that women in the workforce face risks that are significantly different from men, everyone will ultimately benefit.

Preparations for the future training sessions are underway. Once training materials are approved by the Department of Labor, Kent State Geauga will begin offering pilot sessions. Small businesses and employees interested in more information about the training can contact Kent State Geauga at 440-834-4187.

POSTED: Monday, October 23, 2023 02:25 PM
Updated: Monday, October 23, 2023 02:32 PM
Estelle R. Brown