Women recruits ‘put at risk by PPE clothing designed for men’
4 Feb 2020
Personal protection equipment (PPE) is failing to adapt to the needs of the growing number of women entering the manufacturing and engineering industries, claims a leading supplier.
ProGARM, which specialises in Arcflash and flame resistant safety clothing, warns that too often PPE garments are designed for the needs of what has traditionally been a predominantly male workforce.
“The number of female workers in the industry is on the incline, and while increasingly mixed gender workforces is a positive change, the traditional universal fit of PPE can pose risks to female workers,” said technical expert at ProGARM Mark Lant.
“The universal fit of safety garments combined with increasingly mixed gender workforces across all industries is posing a great risk to female workers, due to protective clothing that is not tailored to their size and shape.”
On average, women tend to be shorter and have different hip to waist ratios from men, as well as wider forefeet and shorter foot arches. Providing what is essentially menswear in smaller sizes, for example or describing a clothes range as unisex is insufficient added Lant.
“This is likely to result in women having to opt for the size bigger to accommodate for their hips, resulting in trousers that are too long and kneecap pads in the wrong location, all posing risks to the wearer.”
Overlarge sizes that are too bulky and uncomfortable also impact protection levels in other ways, says Lant, increasing the likelihood of workers rolling up sleeves or unfastening jackets.
“Additionally, ill-fitting PPE makes it tempting to use an everyday belt to ensure a better fit, however these are vulnerable to catching fire or melting into the PPE should an Arc Flash event occur.”
In the process industries and engineering, a growing shortage of recruits has highlighted the need to attract more female workers.
Women are often heavily underrepresented in these areas – achieving parity with the present number of male employees would substantially address the labour issue.