The Beginner’s Guide to PPE for Women
When it comes to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for women, we aren’t talking about “what’s hot and what’s not,” We’re talking about safety and making sure that everyone leaves the job site the way they arrived.
The National Association of Women in Construction says that as of 2014, women made up 8.9 percent of the industry’s workers. That’s based on the 2015 Bureau of Labor Statistics Household Data Annual Averages report. That number skyrocketed from the previous year when BLS reported women made up 1.2 percent of the industry.
This beginner’s guide to PPE for women is aimed at making sure that female employees don’t have to “make do” with whatever is available. Work gloves that are too big or hardhats that are too deep can lead to a greater risk of accident or injury.
Step #1: Lose the Frills
Safety apparel has been marketed to women for too long with the gimmick that it is pink. While I’m all for colors that make you stand out from your background, we need to be focusing on the safety rating of the item. If it’s a hard hat, does it meet the proper classification? If it’s safety gloves, do they protect you against the hazards you face on a regular basis? And just as the important, no matter the piece of PPE. Does it fit right?
Step #2: Focus on the Fit
Men and women have different bone structure, there is no doubt about it.
It’s not uncommon for leather work gloves to be one size fits all, but if that is designed for the length and width of a male hand, you end up with situations like the ones mentioned in this white paper from the Industrial Accident Prevention Association.
“I stuffed cotton in the fingers, put tape at the wrist, and tacked the top with staples to stop sparks from getting down the sleeve” was the account from one female worker.
When shopping for leather work gloves for women, look for gloves designed specially for the female hand. Like these:
Step #3: If the Glove Don’t Fit, Try a String-Knit
Leather used to be the go to option for gloves because the material was available and it offers great abrasion resistance.
But as technology advanced, string-knit gloves have become more popular partly because the fit was more exact than what leather could traditionally offer.
Our glove sizes typically range from XS-XXL and some even come in XXS, like the gloves pictured below.
This is great news for employees, regardless of gender, as well as EHS Managers and Purchasing departments who don’t need to purchase multiple styles of gloves to outfit different employees facing the same risks.
Step #4: Size Does Matter
So now there is a good deal of glove sizes to choose from. But which one will best fit your hand?
Use our Sizing Guide to make sure you’re being outfitted with the right sized gloves and sleeves.
Step #5: Look Ahead
More women aren’t just moving into construction and related trades, they’re also moving into Health and Safety positions.
Bringing with them a greater awareness of the requirements of PPE for women. It’s been slow going, but the tide is changing in this arena, as well.
Safety+Health magazine recently interviewed five women who work in safety. Their stories illustrate the struggle to be heard in an industry that’s traditionally male.
Either women can take the risk of tripping in clunky boots, dropping a tool with bulky gloves or suffering an eye injury in goggles that don’t offer the correct protection. Or the company can invest in the proper safety for all workers.
At the end of the day — even if there is only one female employee on the work site — it’s about safety. When one worker on the team isn’t safe, everyone is in danger.
Want more advice for choosing the right PPE?
Read The PPE Bible now!