Does your company have a Gender PPE Gap?
You've bought the best tools. You're using the best fixings. Yet your most expensive asset, the skilled workmen and women, in whom you've invested time and money, are risking their safety by not wearing PPE, or wearing PPE that doesn't fit properly.
As Draper tools specialists, we are well known for supplying high quality tools, but we also encourage companies to look at the wide range of sizes we can access in PPE - though most employers only ask for one size.
Getting the right fit for both men and women of all heights and builds is critical – and during pregnancy, it's important to consider maternity PPE. Here's why getting the right PPE is important:
Ill fitting PPE clothing creates hazards at work – women particularly at risk
Ill-fitting PPE defeats the object of helping workers to do their job safely.
Wearing badly fitting shoes or overalls can increase the chances of tripping, and safety harnesses, belts and body armour can rub against the skin. However, it isn't just comfort, poorly fitting PPE can create a wide range of hazards: reduced dexterity from oversized PPE gloves, baggy overalls catching on equipment, tripping because footwear or shoe covers are too large, falling over because their hard hat has fallen over their eyes or getting eye injuries because their goggles were so uncomfortable that staff removed them.
Badly fitting PPE is a particular problem for women, as 'standard' PPE, especially safety harnesses, are not designed to accommodate breasts or hips.
The Gender PPE Gap
A TUC survey found:
- More than half of women (57%) said that their PPE sometimes or significantly hampered their work – including 95% of women working in emergency services.
-More than 2 in 5 (41%) women said that the protective trousers that were given to them were inappropriate.
-More than 1 in 3 (35%) found their overalls unsuitable for carrying out their work duties.
The problem is so bad, industry commentators are calling it 'The Gender PPE Gap'. TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady recently said:
"I'm shocked that so many women – even those working in frontline emergency services – do not have the right protective clothing to do their jobs safely. Bosses' complacency risks serious injury."
Talk to us about our PPE for women – we have a wide range available to order.
Workers likely to remove uncomfortable PPE eyewear
While safety is important, employers should think about comfort too. Safety eyewear is particularly important – one size definitely does not fit all. There are significant variances in facial structure among men and women – and safety eyewear can be one of the hardest types of PPE to fit.
90 percent of eye injuries are preventable through the use of proper protective eyewear, so getting the fit right is vital for every individual worker. Ill-fitting eyewear can allow debris to enter the eyes, while slipping, fogging, and soreness contribute to worker distraction, loss of productivity, and even the removal of eyewear.
YouGov research on behalf of Specsavers Corporate Eyecare saw 24% of staff admit they removed safety eyewear despite knowing it was unsafe, because safety eyewear was uncomfortable.
If workers wear glasses and need to use protective eyewear all day, we recommend employers provide prescription eyewear. At the very least, each member of staff should have their own protective eyewear that has been correctly fitted to them.
Hard Hats and Gloves should not fall off
Most employers only buy one size of hard hats and gloves, (the average male size). Riverside Hardware can provide a wide range of sizes and designs, so there is no need to offer staff hats and gloves that don't fit.
Providing PPE that doesn't fit is a waste of time, you don't want employees who are clumsy because they are struggling to keep their gloves on. We'd strongly recommend that employers check that current PPE fits and seek to provide alternatives if they don't.
Similar, a well-fitting hard hat is critical. Employees are at risk of head injuries if their hard hat falls off every time they look up, or other injuries if it slips over their eyes. Women again struggle with this – don't just buy them a man's hat in a pretty pink colour, they need a hat that fits them, the colour is irrelevant.
The hidden costs of PPE fails
There is one more reason employers should look to get PPE right – in the event of an accident, there are a lot of hidden costs which your insurer won't cover, such as management time, fines, temporary cover, lost contract penalties, tool and plant damage, cost of cover etc.
That's an awful lot of potential expense compared to taking a few minutes to buy PPE in a size that fits. We're asking employers to take a second look at what your staff are wearing.
Our trained team are here to help. If you are local, why not bring your staff down to see us at Riverside Hardware in Bridgend. We'll be happy to help them find a hard hat, gloves, overalls and eyewear that fit properly, and importantly, keeps them safe.
Ryan Woodridge, Riverside Hardware