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Women at risk in a Venezuelan University

Víctor Castillo
Evelin Escalona

The aim of this study was to characterize hazardous working conditions and associated health effects among the staff at a Venezuelan university, through a descriptive study that used qualitative methods, supported by an ergonomic evaluation. The target population consisted of 500 persons. A purposive sample of 28 people (12 women, 16 men), divided into seven homogeneous exposure groups, was used. Qualitative and ergonomic techniques included individual and group direct observation, collective interviews, body parts discomfort diagram, and an observation guide adapted from the Déparis method. In the workplace, women outnumbered men and mainly worked in administration areas, classroom teaching, libraries, and file rooms. Traditionally, these areas are not regarded as high risk, but the reality was quite different, with women generally exposed to the worst working conditions. Lighting was poor, and there were deficiencies in the technical organization of the work. Men worked mainly in surveillance and maintenance, distributed throughout various departments. Risks to women were frequent and also included exposure to dust, the presence of animals and their excreta, leading to unsanitary conditions. Women are at risk of musculoskeletal disorders, respiratory diseases, disorders of the voice and occupational disease due to chemical, biological, psychosocial and ergonomic hazards, together with high job demands. Changes in working conditions that incorporate a gender perspective to improve the working conditions of women are urgently needed.

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