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PPE made by women for women in construction

WRYKER Toolbox Talk No.15
February 3, 2024 at 9:00 a.m.

By WRYKER Construction Supply. 

WRYKER leads the charge in redefining construction safety gear for women workers because one size does not fit all when it comes to PPE. 

The construction industry has one of the highest injury rates. And in 2021, it ranked as the top industry for preventable fatal injuries. Personal protective equipment (PPE) plays a vital role in helping keep workers safe from injury, and it’s important that it fits correctly, which has not always been the case for women in the construction industry. Women's PPE often fails in comfort and size due to traditional designs based on male body measurements. Not only should PPE be comfortable to wear, but it should also allow you to move and keep you safe. But many women have been unsatisfied with the PPE available to them because it doesn’t fit right and needs to be adjusted frequently, thus putting them at a higher risk of injury. As a company owned by women, we are dedicated to offering a variety of PPE in different styles and sizes to bridge this gap and help keep women construction workers safer.help keep women construction workers safer. 

Recognizing the challenges of women's PPE 

It's essential to consider women's unique physiological characteristics when designing PPE for women to wear. Historically, these products have been designed with male body dimensions in mind. Originally, the measurements used for PPE in the U.S. were primarily taken from male military recruits. While this works well for men, the same measurements lead to poor-fitting PPE for women.

One of the most prominent challenges is finding PPE that fits women properly. Women often have narrower shoulders, broader hips and shorter torsos than men. One size fits all doesn't ring true for most women wearing clothing designed for men. Improperly fitting gear presents significant safety hazards that can jeopardize workers' well-being. 

WRYKER aims to tackle these size and fit challenges head-on by partnering with manufacturers who prioritize inclusivity and provide an extensive range of styles and sizes for women's PPE. 

Tailored design and style options for women 

Women's PPE has evolved significantly to cater to the unique needs and preferences of female workers in the construction industry. A significant number of women have voiced their preference for PPE that not only provides a proper fit but also aligns with their personal style. Comfort plays a pivotal role in determining employees' commitment to wearing PPE consistently. Because WRYKER understands the importance of combining functionality and fashion, we offer a variety of designs and style options for women's PPE that cater to individual tastes. Rain jackets, safety vests and coveralls are just a few of the PPE items that can make a difference in comfort and safety. 

Hi-vis safety vests designed for women prioritize both visibility and comfort to ensure maximum safety and ease of movement. These vests are typically made from lightweight and breathable materials such as polyester mesh, which allows air circulation and prevents overheating during prolonged use. They are available in various high-visibility colors and feature reflective tape or strips that enhance visibility in low-light or dark environments. 

Rain jackets for women should prioritize both visibility and protection from inclement weather. These jackets are often made from waterproof and breathable materials, such as nylon or polyester with PU or PVC coatings. They feature high-visibility colors, reflective tape and adjustable hoods and cuffs to ensure maximum visibility and coverage. Additionally, some jackets offer ventilation options like underarm zippers or mesh linings to prevent overheating and maintain comfort during extended wear. 

Women's coveralls are specifically tailored to provide a comfortable and functional fit. They are typically made from durable and waterproof materials like polyester or polyurethane with sealed seams to keep the wearer dry in wet conditions. 

By understanding the materials, features and benefits of each type of women's PPE, workers can make informed decisions when selecting the appropriate gear for their specific tasks and requirements, ensuring that women can work safely and comfortably in the construction field. 

The impact on safety and productivity 

Safety is a primary concern for women’s PPE. Ill-fitting PPE hinders mobility, limits dexterity and compromises range of motion, affecting both comfort and safety. Some safety hazards that poor PPE can cause include: 

  • Extra material from oversized garments can snag on machinery, causing entanglement hazards.  
  • Gloves that don't fit the hand properly can result in the wearer dropping or mishandling materials, increasing the risk of accidents. 
  • Improperly sized headgear, eye protection, and hearing protection may not perform correctly or may slip down, compromising safety. 
  • Footwear primarily designed for men can cause difficulties for female wearers, including trouble walking, blisters, and inadequate toe protection. 
  • Ill-fitting safety vests and fall harnesses can also increase the risk of injury or harm. 

Investing in properly fitting women's PPE has far-reaching benefits for both safety and productivity in the construction industry. Workers that are satisfied with the fit and comfort of their PPE are more inclined to wear it consistently, resulting in a reduced risk of injuries. One survey conducted in 2016 by Women in Science and Engineering, the Trades Union Congress, and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers highlights that improperly fitting PPE not only hinders women's work, leading to discomfort and an increased risk of injury but also subjects them to disparaging comments in the workplace. Some women even covered the costs of PPE themselves and made significant adjustments to cope with bodily changes related to pregnancy and menopause, which further affected their well-being and productivity. 

 In another 2019 report by the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP), experts discovered that ill-fitting PPE can also have psychological effects on workers. ASSP concluded that properly fitting PPE not only fosters confidence but also enhances productivity. Promoting properly fitting PPE can increase confidence, productivity, and, as a result, safety in the field. 

At WRYKER, we prioritize safety and productivity by providing ergonomically designed gear to enhance productivity, decrease fatigue levels and improve overall worker safety.  

Driving inclusivity through PPE 

Driving inclusivity and promoting gender-responsive PPE is crucial for the industry's evolution towards a more inclusive and diverse environment that prioritizes the safety and satisfaction of all workers. Initiatives like the "Stand Down for Safety" campaign, led by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), play a vital role in raising awareness about women's PPE issues and encouraging employers to provide proper-fitting protective gear.  

The issue of gender-responsive PPE is gaining traction globally. The American Medical Association's (AMA) House of Delegates presented a resolution in June 2021, directing the AMA to promote the diversification of PPE, ensuring its design and availability for all individuals. On an international level, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) brought together esteemed standards organizations such as ASTM International and ISO to develop regulations and standards for gender-responsive PPE. Additionally, there has been a notable emergence of companies like WRYKER that are now producing safety and work gear tailored to women's needs, exemplifying the industry's recognition of this imperative. 

An evolving industry 

As the construction industry continues to evolve, it is crucial to prioritize the unique challenges faced by women in obtaining properly fitting PPE. By acknowledging the importance of size, fit and style, employers and manufacturers can create an environment that prioritizes the safety and satisfaction of all workers. The International Safety Equipment Association emphasizes the importance of employers communicating PPE fit to ensure workers understand their size, and subsequently make a conscientious effort to procure the necessary sizes, regardless of quantity. We feel it is necessary to empower women in the construction industry to take on their work confidently and safely. Options are still limited, but we are actively working with manufacturers to encourage further development of product lines designed specifically for women. 

Check out all of the product offerings available from WRYKER Construction Supply here.  

Original article source: WRYKER

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