Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Why are we getting involved?
The mining industry has made great advances in gender inclusion, and more women are working at operations. Women have different requirements when it comes to working in remote and challenging heavy industry environments, and if these needs are not adequately met, the risk of losing their talents becomes significant.
Employers have a responsibility to ensure the safety, comfort, and wellbeing of everyone in the workplace by providing correctly-fitting PPE. That’s why it’s important to understand why there are key differences between PPE designed for men and women.
The importance of correctly fitting PPE
PPE is designed for safety. But if the PPE given to women doesn’t fit their body frames it can impact or hinder their work. We find that instead of a female fit, they are given a smaller “unisex” fit, which is often initially designed for men. It’s no surprise then that a lot of PPE is designed to fit male shapes and sizes, despite the clear differences between men and women. This is about much more than looks, it’s about the connection between fitting well and being safe.
The problem with unisex solutions: An outdated approach to female-fit PPE can lead to problems and pose a risk. As an example, women’s feet tend to be narrower than men’s, not just smaller. A smaller unisex size won’t fit securely enough and could cause trip hazards. The bottom line is that when women’s PPE doesn’t fit correctly it is uncomfortable, unsafe, and can cause health problems. They may even decide to stop wearing it, which puts everyone involved at even more risk.
As women wear these ill-fitting “unisex” solutions, they face an increased risk of getting caught or snagged on objects such as scaffolds and steel reinforcements. This is clearly dangerous. But it also makes women feel that the industry doesn’t want to accommodate for their safety.
Issuing the correct PPE not only ensures that your female employees are protected, but it also improves morale and productivity. Having basics like female-fit PPE ready for new and existing employees makes women feel welcome in the industry.
The correct fit helps women feel empowered and included in their workforce, which is a key part of employee wellbeing. Imagine if the roles were reversed. How would men feel being forced to wear over or undersized PPE that simply wasn’t designed for their body shape?
Understanding the need for diversity
There’s a range of situations where PPE may need to be adapted to meet diverse needs. This can include suitable maternity clothing or clothing options that help employers meet their employees’ religious requirements.
Maternity PPE: Pregnancy changes the shape of a woman’s body and it’s no surprise that very few male garments are designed to comfortably fit over a baby bump whilst maintaining safety standards.
Hijab & burka-friendly PPE clothing: It can be difficult to find appropriate PPE or protective workwear to be worn with a hijab or burka, making it a challenge to adhere to religious values whilst complying with health & safety requirements. But it is important for employers to provide PPE that is religiously inclusive whilst also keeping them safe.
The best advice on PPE for women
Providing the correct workwear and PPE for women isn’t an optional extra. Proper protective equipment and clothing for women is a step towards gender equality and helps encourage and grow female talent in a range of industries.
If we wish to attract and retain more female employees, then we need to create working environments where women feel they belong. Otherwise, we will continue to exclude women from male-dominated workforces.
In summary, PPE that is specifically designed for the female body is a must for various reasons, primarily:
- Increased safety: women are usually supplied with small men clothes, which are ill-fitting to the contours or proportions of the female body which increases potentials for hazards and accidents
- Increased performance: if your clothes fit properly, you can get about and perform your duties more easily, with greater self-confidence. It’s really that simple
- Increased well-being: women are not men. It should be evident but the industry is learning that this is true not only for infrastructure, behaviour but also equipment. Recruitment and retention are heavily based on how people feel when they are at work. When one feels considered and included at work, engagement increases.
PPE designed for the female body exists, and there are many suppliers who are specialising and including equipment and clothing lines made specifically for women.
Review the providers of female PPE in the listing here.
In memory of Kristy Christensen and her dedication to this topic throughout her life.
How to use this list
We have not listed suppliers of Women’s Hi-vis standard pants, jackets and shirts and standard steel capped boots as there is an abundance of these on the market.
What is listed are the more speciality items that are harder to find designed for women or by women. If there is a supplier we are missing, please contact us here.
It’s a great starting list for businesses who either have female employees now, or want a future with more female employees and want to take the exhaustive research out of finding PPE that adequately protects and suits a generally smaller, curvier and highly variable female form.
Format: company name, website, country where the business operates from and design type.
We haven’t tried the items on the list and can’t vouch for their quality or adherence to international standards if it isn’t listed.
Commonly used symbols
FD – Designed specifically for use by females
FR – Flame Retardant/Flame Resistant
UF – A Unisex design that is more suitable for female
UD – A Unisex design
WP – Waterproof