Something for the ladies
Often, women are less fortunate than men when it comes to finding personal protective equipment (PPE) that fits properly. CLAIRE RENCKEN takes a look at how some suppliers are catering specifically for the fairer sex.
PPE cannot protect a worker from hazards if it does not fit properly. A Canadian study has proved that equipment designed for men will not fit women properly, due to differences in body size, height and composition. Women are not simply smaller versions of men – their body configuration is different. So employers need to keep women in mind when purchasing PPE.
Ill-fitting gloves and hardhats, for example, can affect safety. If gloves don’t fit correctly and are too big, a worker will most likely be more clumsy. If her hardhat falls off every time she looks up, that’s not a good thing either – she may need to use one hand to hold it on.
Some PPE tips for women:
Earplugs – Disposable, foam earplugs are more likely to fit women, who typically have smaller ear canals.
Hardhats – Adding a chin strap can help hardhats or caps fit better and not fall off.
Safety goggles – Beware of goggles that state “one size fits all” – some may be too large for a woman’s face and could allow objects, fluids or other hazardous material to enter through gaps in the seals.
Protective clothing – Taking a man’s garment and modifying it to fit a woman, such as rolling up sleeves or pant legs, can be dangerous, because the excess material can get caught in machinery.
Safety gloves – Ensure all exposed skin is covered. The gloves should allow for a safe grip, so that tools will not easily slip out of the hands. The finger length, width and palm circumference of the gloves must match those of the hands.
SHE PPE is a company that has recognised the need for women’s PPE. Its equipment is branded and designed by a woman – the director of Etekweni Safety, Health and Environmental Services – for women. It is a Proudly South African brand and conforms to South African National Standards (SANS) requirements.
Safety boots are, arguably, one of the most difficult pieces of PPE for female workers to find. A typical woman’s foot is both shorter and narrower than a typical man’s foot, so a smaller boot may be the right length, but not the right width. So, one can’t merely assume that a woman can wear a smaller version of a boot designed with a man’s foot in mind.
Bagshaw Footwear’s Shu! safety shoes for women offer both femininity and functionality. Shu! safety footwear is designed specifically for women, and caters for both the broader and the narrower foot, without sacrificing style.