Your Account

5 Things You Need to Know About PPE for Women

According to the 2020 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics women made up 10.9% of the total employment in the construction industry and women made up 8.1 percent of all fatalities in the workplace. That means having the right PPE available for women could have made all the difference.

Womens PPE

When it comes to providing your women employees with personal protective equipment (PPE), the one-size-fits-all mentality doesn't work anymore. As the number of women entering traditionally male-dominated fields like construction, manufacturing and oil and gas grows, so to do the needs for employers to provide their female employees with personal protective equipment that fits their frames.

1. The Workforce Needs Women
As the labor market in these industries shrinks and the population continues to age, more employers will need to expand their workforce to include more women in order to stay competitive. More than that, women are driving growth and taking leadership roles in many sectors. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, women working in construction jobs has increased 23% and the share of female truck drivers, electricians, plumbers, and mechanics recently hit its highest level in at least 25 years.

When women are on the job site and running the front office, creating a safety culture that keeps the specific needs of women in mind doesn't just help your employees, it improves your bottom line.

2. One Size Doesn't Fit All
Having women wear larger sized PPE isn't safe and the solution isn't as simple as having them wear a smaller size and typically, a woman's foot is both shorter and narrower than their male counterparts. This makes finding a boot that is both the right length and right width even more important.

  • A woman's face is generally smaller than a man's face. If a woman is using protective eyewear that is sized for a man, the gaps they leave at her temples may allow flying debris from a machine to enter her eyes.

  • When it comes to hand protection, a woman's hands are smaller, she has shorter, narrower fingers, and a smaller palm circumference so even a man's small glove often does not fit. Instead, having gloves sized to a woman's hand improves dexterity and reduces risk.

  • When it comes to slip and fall protection, an improperly sized safety harness can hinder a woman's movements and affect the ability to work safely. It also can increase the worker's risk of "suspension trauma" after a fall. This a potentially fatal condition in which blood pools in the legs and reduces the amount of blood in circulation.

  • A woman wearing a hard hat designed for a man may risk having her vision obscured by a hard hat that falls in her eyes. Many manufacturers recommend that women wear hard hats with a chin strap in order to improve fit.

Another issue related to ill-fitting PPE is that women who can't find comfortable PPE are less likely to wear any PPE. This puts them at increased risk of injury.

3. Alteration Isn't the Answer
Often, women who are unable to get access to PPE that is sized for their bodies will try to compensate by altering available equipment. Big mistake. Safety equipment is specifically designed to protect the wearer as-is. Altering negates the protective property of the PPE at best and can even put a female employee at greater risk.

4. It's Not Just a "Female Thing"
While both men and women bring up issues related to PPE with their supervisors, women are often subject to derisive comments when issued ill-fitting PPE.

According to a survey carried out in May 2016 by Women in Science and Engineering (WES), just over one-quarter of respondents (28%) reported that they had been subjected to unwelcome (mostly derogatory) comments as a result of ill-fitting PPE.

Creating a safety culture that welcomes women employees requires more than providing the right equipment. It requires setting the right tone for employees and supervisors on the job site, making sure that everyone understands that concerns about PPE for women are not only valid but addressing them can help you to avoid safety issues in the future.

5. Options Are Available

The good news is that one-size-fits-all doesn't have to be a company's default position. More and more providers are offering PPE that is designed and sized specifically for women. This includes everything from safety gloves and work boots to safety harnesses and fall protection equipment.

Talking to your PPE supplier is a great place to start. They often are familiar with different brand options, and if the equipment you need isn't available, it's easier than ever to create customized equipment that fits the needs of all of your employees.

For example, Arbill's Truline product line includes the Assault Slim safety glasses. These stylish safety glasses are designed with a woman's face in mind while also offering clear XCoat and anti-fog lenses.

When it comes to hand protection, Arbill also offers its GenWear 110 TrimFit Gloves. The "skinny jean" of gloves, these gloves are designed for workers (male or female) with smaller structured hands. This streamlined design allows for a better fit, while featuring a mesh back to reduce heat buildup and a reinforced grip.

Looking for more ideas on how to provide your women employees with the right PPE? Talk to one of our safety advisors today.You can learn about our custom PPE options and schedule a site assessment.

Have a Safe Day!