Protecting female employees with the right PPE
Specially designed personal protective equipment (PPE) for women is helping to protect female employees. MARISKA MORRIS takes a look at this increasingly popular trend
PPE is largely designed for the male physique, notes David Msiza, chief inspector of mines at the Department of Mineral Resources, in the guidelines for the provision of PPE for women. This has resulted in many areas of work in the South African mining industry being unsuitable for women.
The guidelines, written in 2015, were developed after an independent study found that ill-fitting PPE posed health and safety risks. Female mine workers were at risk of work-related incidents with their comfort and performance compromised because of inadequate protective gear. This unsuitable gear led to various skin conditions such as chaffing, rashes and fungal infections.
“The situation is further exacerbated by the unique coping mechanisms that women in mining have been compelled to practise in order to adjust and correct the ill-fitting PPE (for example use of nylon tights and thick wool socks as undergarments),” Msiza explains. “PPE should not only protect a worker, but also provide comfort,” he argues.
To address this concern, the guidelines under the Mine Health and Safety Act 29 of 1996 require employers to provide each woman working in mining with PPE according to size and fit, among other regulations. More industries, such as construction, are looking to provide women with PPE suited to their body type. What PPE is available specifically for women?
British safety experts Arco launched a female range of high-visibility clothing for construction workers in June, 2016. The reflective band of the traditional polo shirts has been moved from the chest area to the stomach area for better comfort. Locally, Select PPE offers high-visibility clothing specifically designed for women.
“As a multi-branded supplier, Select PPE can supply most of the high-visibility jackets currently on the market,” says marketing manager Marishka van der Schyff.
There is a wide range of high-visibility jackets from which to choose, which include solid and mesh material with fluorescent colours such as lime, orange, yellow, pink and royal blue. The colours allow for day-time visibility while reflective strips enhance visibility at night.
“The reflective strips can be placed on the front and back of the jacket with a strip or cross on the back of the vest,” Van der Schyff explains.
“The option to add high-visibility sleeves to a vest is also available. Companies can add screen printing or embroidery with their logo to the vests,” she notes. Select PPE’s range of high-visibility jackets ranges from a size small to 5XL.
Dromex, another supplier of PPE, which stocks various types of high-visibility garments (that conform to European standard EN 20471, which ensures the user is protected in any light condition), is another company eager to add PPE for women to its product range.
“PPE tailored to women is still largely ‘under construction’. It is, however, a legitimate need and we expect to see much more development in this area within the next few years,” says Lyndall Farrer, marketing executive at Dromex.