PPE Design Shifts to Accommodate Women in Construction

More and more women are choosing careers in the construction industry, and because of this, experts are looking for ways to help bolster their safety on the job.

📅   Thu October 05, 2017 - National Edition
Emily Buenzle


“All workers, male or female, deserve PPE that fits properly. When it does, they are much more inclined to a) wear it and b) wear it in the correct way, maintaining compliance with national or company standards and reducing the risk of injury,” Olson said.
“All workers, male or female, deserve PPE that fits properly. When it does, they are much more inclined to a) wear it and b) wear it in the correct way, maintaining compliance with national or company standards and reducing the risk of injury,” Olson said.

More and more women are choosing careers in the construction industry, and because of this, experts are looking for ways to help bolster their safety on the job.

One key area that is being evaluated is the size and fit of PPE, which has not been traditionally designed for the female workforce, Safety+Health reported. Often, female workers must use PPE that has been designed the male frame, and is too large for them to safely wear.

“Employers who go by the 'one-size-fits-all' approach are not providing the necessary protection to their workers,” said Katie Mielcarek, marketing manager of PPE manufacturer Gateway Safety Inc.

Changes in the latest ANSI-ISEA 107 High Visibility Apparel Standard have given PPE manufacturers the opportunity to redesign their pieces, Safety+Health reported.

“Under the previous standard editions, the amount of background material required to make many common garments, such as a Class 2 vest, made it difficult for manufacturers to design garments that properly fit smaller workers, which included many women,” said Andy Olson, product director of PPE manufacturer Ergodyne. “Inspired by worker feedback, the revised ANSI/ISEA 107-2015 standard now allows for an exception to the minimum area requirements for background materials used in Type R Performance Class 2 and Type R Performance Class 3 garments with a 'smallest size' offering.

“All workers, male or female, deserve PPE that fits properly. When it does, they are much more inclined to a) wear it and b) wear it in the correct way, maintaining compliance with national or company standards and reducing the risk of injury,” Olson said.

Gateway and Ergodyne aren't the only companies looking at fit of women's PPE, Safety+Health reported:

  • Carhartt is working on garment designs that feature moisture-wicking and stretchy materials to mimic typical clothing.

    “Some of the new technologies being applied to women's PPE gear include range-of-motion capabilities and flexible construction around the joints,” said Carhartt's PPE and industrial merchandiser, Melinda Fabry.

  • Honeywell Industrial Safety has highlighted hard hats made with women in mind.

    “A greater range of sizes and shapes produce a better fit on the head with less likelihood that it will fall off, exposing one to hazards,” said Dan Birch, Honeywell's product marketing manager.