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Forty shades of grey : women in the Irish electronics industry Cahill, Anna Mary

Abstract

This research study examines the experiences of women working in electronics assembly in Cork, Ireland in the context of globalization and the growing internationalization and feminization of the industrial work force. Utilizing a case study format, the study presents descriptive information on the health concerns and occupational health and safety experiences of 12 women working at two electronics' plants. Findings were congruent with statistics in the general literature. The majority of participants were young women who had worked in the industry from 4 to 17 years. Most of the employment shifts were horizontal in nature and the majority of participants had experienced little upward mobility. The health concerns raised are salient: 76% reported experiencing serious, recurring headaches; 75% reported serious skin concerns - rashes, bruising, broken skin; 67% reported respiratory difficulties and 67% difficulties with vision. The most significant findings were in the area of occupational health and safety. None of the study participants had ever received any form of training on chemicals' handling or awareness, including the health and safety co-ordinator at one plant. Contrary to the legislation, various workplace measures to protect workers' health are neither being implemented nor enforced. Participants generally reported feeling unsupported by both the health and safety body and the union structure. General recommendations and recommendations for further research in a number of areas are presented.

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