Many industries, such as oil and gas and construction, have seen an increase in female employees, and will continue to see an increase in female employees as time goes on. Additionally, with the national trades’ shortage, we are seeing more and more women enter into the trades as a profession. However, there is still a very real bar to their safety in the trade industries: Personal Protective Equipment.
Ill-fitting PPE, which women often have to wear due to lack of available suitable PPE, poses a safety hazard. Part 18, section 242 of the Alberta OHS Code states:
If there is a danger that a worker’s hand, arm, leg or torso may be injured, an employer must ensure that the worker wears properly fitting hand, arm, leg or body personal protective equipment that is appropriate to the work, the work site and the hazards identified.
Properly. Fitting. And yet, properly fitting PPE for women is hard to find. Certainly, there is PPE that is marketed as unisex; however, the fit is often loose, which doesn’t offer the same level of protection. Many stores where PPE is commonly found do not carry fire-retardant clothing for women, and often times have the men’s fire-retardant clothing starting at a size medium. While this may loosely fit a woman who is taller than 5 feet 7 inches, it will not work for the average female, who is 5 feet 4 inches. There is also difficulty in finding steel toed boots for women who have smaller feet. This is certainly the opposite from the PPE selection that is available to men.
However, despite the shortcomings in the department of women’s PPE, there are companies that are taking the steps to rectify the issue. True North Safety Apparel, in Regina, sells solely women’s safety apparel with the goal of “supporting women working in the trades and other hazardous environments, by increasing the accessibility, availability, and affordability of properly fitted safety apparel that is specifically designed for women’s bodies.” What an excellent mission statement. You can check them out further here: True North Safety Apparel
Providing properly fitting PPE to all members of staff who require it promotes an environment of inclusion and communicates the message to all staff that the company values their well being. Take a look the PPE your company supplies your workers. Is it suitable for everyone? What can be done to ensure that everyone has gear that fits properly and protects them from the hazards of the job?