The myths and hazardous life of asphalt labourer : A pre-study on work environment and gender equality in the asphalt paving industry
Abstract: Road construction work is often regarded to be a dirty and strenuous job. The asphalt paving industry is male-dominated with a low percentage of women. This master thesis is part of Human Work Sciences at Luleå University of Technology's participation in the SMMART (Swedish Magnetite Microwave Asphalt Road Technology) project. The purpose of SMMART is to test carbon dioxide free heating of asphalt mastic by using microwave heating. This thesis is a pre-study with the objective to map the organizational structure of the asphalt paving industry to illuminate the possibilities and restraints for the new technology to impact work environment and gender equality. Empirical data was gathered through four interviews and a structured literature review of the trade union paper Sekotidningen. The results indicate that the asphalt microwave heater compared to diesel-burners may improve the work environment for asphalt labourers when heating asphalt in a hotbox. Identified energies will reduce from six to five energies by replacing thermal energy (hot asphalt) and chemical energy (fumes from heated asphalt and fumes from diesel burner) with electric energy electric damage from fault wire) and ionizing radiation (microwaves spilling from the hotbox). The risks should be evaluated further to certainly determine if the work environment will improve. The stereotype of the asphalt paving worker to be as risk-taking seems to be a myth. The results imply that asphalt labourer have a safety mindset and knowledge of risks not utilized. Passing vehicles in the workplace is without any doubt communicated as the biggest threat to the asphalt labourer. Roads are seldom closed from traffic for road constructions in Sweden and work environment seems to deteriorate instead of improve over the years 2012 to 2019. The results indicate that actors in the industry understand asphalt paving industry as gender-neutral. This understanding may affect how gender equality interventions are received. The technical monopoly by men seems to be so strong in the asphalt paving industry, that women who enter are expected to act harmful to the industry rather than contribute as expected by men. A reoccurring assumption is that the work structure is incompatible with caring for children. This is both used as an argument to why women are less capable for asphalt work, and at the same time expressed as a problem for recruitment since young men demand to be more present when raising a family. To combine work with family life are in other words not only an issue when recruiting women but when recruiting and creating an attractive workplace for both women and men. The results indicate that gender equality in the asphalt paving industry is far more complex than to simply 'add women'. The discussion was boiled down to a requirement specification with three requirements, each with implementing strategies for one and five years: Reduce emitted pollution from crude oil products; Create and attractive workplace for men and women; Increase safety on the road.
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