Page 70 - OHS, June 2022
P. 70

More Inclusive PPE for Women Starts With Finding the Right Fit
Everyone deserves to feel safe on the job.
It is no secret that the United States is facing a skilled trade shortage. According to research from the National Center for Construction Education and Research, approximately 41 percent of the current construction workforce will retire by
2031. As this essential segment of workers heads into retirement years, the discussion of growing the skilled trade workforce has taken center stage.
Women, in particular, play a vital role in the future of the trades. Although the skilled trades remain a male-dominated field, recent years have seen a growing number of women entering this workforce. According to Labor Force Statistics, the amount of women in construction has steadily increased since 2012. Between 2019 and 2020, the share of women grew by about 0.6 percent and in 2021, women now make up 11 percent of the construction workforce.
While this is encouraging progress, one of the most critical areas women in construction still remain underserved in is the accessibility to safety gear. As more and more women enter the workforce, the disparities they encounter have become more apparent. Generations of tradeswomen know all too well the struggles of dealing with personal protective equipment (PPE) that was designed for the frame of a man including poorly fitting safety boots as well as gloves, belts, harnesses, respirators and more.
Everyone deserves to feel safe on the job site and this segment of workers absolutely requires PPE built for their unique anatomy. As more women enter the skilled trades workforce, there is an increased demand for better fitting safety gear built for the wearer. Luckily, many of today’s manufacturers are meeting that demand, developing better fitting PPE. Laying the right foundation for a safe working environment often begins with safety footwear, and many times, that starts with the best fit.
PPE is Not One-Size-Fits-All
64 Occupational Health & Safety | JUNE 2022
While the lack of inclusivity as it pertains to women workers may not be intentional, it has been pervasive throughout the industry until recently. Because the various trade industries have historically been dominated by men, it is no surprise that a majority of PPE has been tailored to this demographic.
While safety on the job site is paramount, the feedback received from many tradeswomen is that the PPE available to them is not only uncomfortable, but also is not even designed for their sizes or body types. In the past, much of the PPE available on the market was designed for men and simply “shrunk down” to smaller sizes for women. This forced tradeswomen to settle for workarounds such as adjusting or modifying gear or finding their male size equivalent to find the closest fit possible. “Close- enough” should not be acceptable when it comes to gear designed to protect, in part, based on proper fit.
Finding the Right Fit
The differences between men’s and women’s feet include bone structure, size, width and shape. In the case of safety footwear, women’s feet tend to be smaller and their bones and tendons are shaped differently. This impacts how they move, walk, stand and distribute weight. These differences require unique footwear for both men and women.
Unfortunately, in the past, women were often limited to the smallest shoe size they could find for men’s safety boots or had very limited inventory to choose from. Without properly fitting footwear, the safety and comfort of tradeswomen can be compromised. The hazards of poorly fitting footwear can range from causing hot spots, blisters and abrasions to unnecessary bulk which could cause serious workplace accidents such as slips,
Photo Courtesy of KEEN Utility

   68   69   70   71   72