Nate Altera TechIOSH suggests ways your business can help support trans and non-binary employees, customers and visitors.
Most businesses consist of and interact with different types of people: local people, immigrants, older people, youth, people with disabilities, etc. When companies conduct risk assessments, they take these groups into account and might introduce special additional measures to focus on their specific health and safety requirements. But among such groups, there are people whose health and safety is not always given appropriate attention: non-binary and transgender people.
Within your working environment, there might be some people who have a different gender identity. But you will not know this until they tell you directly, or until their appearance and behaviour no longer coincides with your gender expectations. Most non-binary and transgender people do not reveal themselves in any way, mainly because it is simply unsafe for them to do so.
Non-binary and transgender people are no different to anyone else but their daily existence is. The problems they face affects their quality of life and their health. The reasons for these problems are mainly rooted in the lack of information about the difference between the terms ‘sex’ and ‘gender’, and the excessive use of gender stereotypes among the population.
Non-binary and transgender people are those whose gender identity does not fit into binary norms. Compared to the three variations in biological sex (male, female, intersex), which is determined at birth based on genitals and chromosome configuration, a person's gender identity is much more diverse and has more than 50 variations.
Think about what you would do if you could not determine the gender of a person (a visitor, client or employee) but you really need to communicate with them. What will you do if you receive a complaint from your client or your employee about harassment / bullying based on their gender identity? (Altera, 2020)
Let's consider the risks that non-binary and transgender people face, and the possible solutions.
Injuries and diseases
Reason: Non-binary and transgender people often avoid using PPE or protective uniforms if they indicate their biological sex.
Measure: Provide a selection of PPE and protective clothing (sizes, colours, etc) which do not indicate the sex of the employee (unless they choose so).
Reason: A lack of gender-neutral toilets.
Measure: Provide a gender-neutral toilet which is labelled as ‘Toilet’, ‘All gender toilet’, etc. It should be accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities because they can also be trans or non-binary.
It is good if the toilet is equipped with everything people need, such as a sink, a mirror, handrails, a wide door frame, a latch, hygiene products (including towels, tampons, etc); be constantly accessible (not locked until it is required); and is not part of the male and female toilets.
Reason: Trans and non-binary people often experience chronic stress at work. They rarely report rude or abusive behaviour from a co-worker or client because they fear being fired or simply feel uncomfortable talking about discrimination.
Chronic stress which can trigger depression, dysphoria and even suicide among these people usually comes from: misgender (usage of the wrong pronoun or person's name); being forced to wear a gendered uniform or the use of gendered language; use of gendered places (toilets, changing rooms, showers, etc); verbal harassment from colleagues and visitors.
- Create or adjust your equality and diversity policy.
- Provide gender diversity training for staff. Working with staff is the key because it is people who use gender stereotypes that contribute to discrimination, which in turn is the cause of most of the health and safety risks for non-binary and transgender people.
- Make ‘gender/sex’ and ‘title’ columns optional, or add other options such as ‘MX’, ‘X’, “They”, ‘Preferred name, etc.
Reason: Assault and physical harm. Employees, customers and visitors can have less understanding or even a phobia of non-binary / trans / non-heterosexual people.
Measure: Prepare preventive security measures for your employees (including those who work remotely), clients and visitors depending on the specifics of the company.
These few measures can help your company improve its risk assessment process and ensure the health and safety of your non-binary and transgender employees and clients. This will also have a great effect on productivity, company image and contribute to the humanisation of our society.
Nate Altera TechIOSH is a continuous improvement specialist who advises companies on OSH matters and business optimisation