Every day, employers ensure workers have access to appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) that helps protect them from workplace hazards, including chemicals, flying debris, and electrical hazards. However, historically, PPE fit for women in the workforce has been difficult to come by, and women have struggled to find the sizing options needed to effectively protect themselves.
A recent survey of almost 3,000 women who regularly use PPE on the job showed that over 80% experience some PPE-related challenges, the most common being improper fit, inadequate selection, or being uncomfortable to wear. Another recent study said that 35% of respondents have difficulty purchasing PPE that properly fits female employees.
The Importance of PPE for Women
It’s no secret that women have been historically underrepresented in many industries, including construction, manufacturing, and mining. However, today there are more than 8 million women in workplaces that need protection, and it’s important to ensure they have access to the same level of safety as their male counterparts. PPE is a critical component of ensuring workplace safety, and it’s essential they have PPE that is designed to fit the unique needs of women.
In the past, and still often today, women in the workforce are offered PPE designed for men, but it often doesn’t fit women properly. For example, hard hats may not fit well, leading to discomfort and reduced effectiveness. Safety glasses may not provide enough coverage for women’s faces, leaving them vulnerable to eye injuries. Ill-fitting PPE can lead to reduced safety, discomfort, and injury.
PPE for Women Today
Fortunately, today many manufacturers offer PPE that is designed to fit women better. Here are some examples of PPE available for women:
High-Visibility Garments: Radians has designed its HiViz gear to include slimmer shoulders, higher zipper & necklines, and a more contoured shape to better fit the female body. KISHIGO designed a line for women to ensure waists properly cinch to create the right fit, pockets are ergonomically positioned for function, and style is appealing to women.
Safety Glasses: MCR Safety women’s safety glasses are available in different shapes and sizes to fit a variety of facial structures. These glasses also come in different colors and lens options to meet specific job requirements.
Hard Hats and Helmets: Most hard hats are adjustable to accommodate various hairstyles and head shapes. MSA offers smaller sizes in a range of colors and materials, including lightweight options.
Hearing Protection: PIP offers ear plugs shaped for narrow or shallow ear canals, designed with fit in mind. Gateway Safety’s line of GirlzGear Safety Products includes reusable earplugs sized 10% smaller with soft, curved flanges to allow for a natural fit.
Gloves: Mechanix offers women’s work gloves in a variety of materials, including leather, synthetic materials, and knit fabrics. They are designed to fit women’s hand sizes and provide protection against cuts, punctures, and abrasions.
Fall Protection: FallTech offers a safety harness customized to fit a woman’s shape, with hip adjustability, comfort leg straps to improve mobility, and a slip-resistant D-ring plate to alleviate back discomfort.
Respirators: Respirators come in different sizes, and some manufacturers make respirators that are designed for women. 3M offers multiple sizing options for its line of half mask respirators. These respirators can provide a better seal and improved comfort for women in hazardous work environments.
Coveralls and Protective Clothing: Many manufacturers, including Bulwark Protection and Carhartt, offer coveralls and protective clothing designed to fit women’s body shapes. These clothing items are available in a variety of materials, including lightweight and breathable fabrics for added comfort.
Work Together to Ensure the Best Fit
It is essential to consult with the manufacturer’s sizing guides and seek advice from safety professionals when selecting PPE to ensure the proper fit and maximum protection.
Employers, manufacturers, and suppliers can work together to ensure all workers have the appropriate sizing for PPE necessary to protect them from the hazards they face on the job.
More Women’s PPE
The providers noted here are some of many that offer sizing and fit options in all categories of PPE. Let us know about other PPE sized for women, and we’ll curate them here as a go-to reference guide.