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Addressing Gender Disparities in Construction Site Facilities

Case Study: Female Facility Checklist

The construction industry, historically male-dominated, has seen a mere 14% of its positions occupied by women, with only 1% of these being skilled trade professionals on construction sites. Female engineers often face differential treatment, leading to discomforting experiences. A glaring issue is the inadequate provision of female facilities. While men are almost always provided with changing rooms and toilets in line with HSE requirements, women often find these facilities lacking or unsuitable. Recognising this disparity, FairHeat, introduced a female facilities checklist for every site their engineers visit, ensuring HSE compliance. This initiative has resulted in a marked improvement in female facilities provision.

Construction sites have always been male-centric, with women making up only 15% of the workforce as of 2022. FairHeat engineers, who frequently visit these sites for various tasks, began to notice the disparities faced by their female colleagues. These disparities ranged from being addressed with pet names to being overlooked in favor of male engineers during site visits.

A recurring challenge was the glaring absence or inadequacy of female facilities on construction sites. Many sites either lacked female restrooms, or were locked and repurposed for storage. Shockingly, some women's toilets were even occupied by senior male workers. These oversights not only overlooked basic decency but also violated the HSE requirement to provide women with a lockable toilet and a changing room when necessary.

“I’ve witnessed the sobering truth that women represent a mere 1% of individuals on-site in the Heat Network industry, and this is not a fabricated statistic, but a harsh reality. Throughout my career, I’ve been unafraid to confront the challenges and biases I’ve faced. I’ve initiated workshops, challenged the status quo, and paved the way for change within my organisation. I may not have been the first to speak up, but as one of the few women in this field, my actions have shed light on experiences that were often kept in silence. Many women may have walked away from this career due to these challenges, and it’s disheartening to witness the pressure some felt to toughen their exterior just to fit in. We need greater gender diversity and inclusivity in engineering to create a more equitable and supportive industry.” - Ellen Hassett, Consulting Engineer, FairHeat

FairHeat's pioneering female engineers, backed by senior management, took the lead in addressing this issue. They rolled out a structured process to hold construction sites accountable for any lapses in HSE compliance or any unwelcome behavior. This process encompassed guidelines for incident reporting, a checklist to evaluate sites against HSE requirements, a log for incident documentation, and regular review meetings. The checklist, in particular, ensured the provision and accessibility of female toilets and changing rooms. Any discrepancies were immediately reported to the site manager, with FairHeat engineers only returning to the site once all issues were rectified.

The introduction of the female facilities checklist has transformed FairHeat's site visit protocol. It has empowered female engineers to demand adequate facilities and has made it mandatory for all FairHeat staff to ensure equal facility provisions, irrespective of gender. A dedicated tracker monitors the checklist results for each site, aiding in accessing facilities during subsequent visits. The initiative has led to a significant improvement in female facilities on sites, with female engineers feeling more empowered and supported.

The female facilities checklist, as highlighted in our case study, is a game-changer in ensuring that all facilities meet the HSE requirements and promote gender equality.

By implementing this checklist, you're not just ticking off boxes; you're taking a stand for equality, respect, and the well-being of all your site workers. Don't just read about change; be the change!

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