The traditionally male dominated construction industry has begun to see an upturn in the amount of women working on sites. Around 170,000 females, 25 per cent of those in the industry, are employed in hands-on roles.
The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) has warned that as more women join the construction workforce, they are finding their personal protective equipment (PPE) to be ill-fitting.
As women have made up such a slender part of the on-site workforce for such a long time, PPE has been geared towards men. This can leave women finding themselves in hazardous situations without their last line of defence. A hard hat which is too big, or a harness that doesn’t fit a person’s body properly can be highly dangerous.
What is PPE?
PPE is worn by a worker to minimize exposure to specific occupational hazards. Some examples of PPE include respirators, gloves, aprons, fall protection, and overalls, as well as head, eye and foot protection. Using PPE is one element in a health and safety program that should use a variety of strategies to maintain a safe and healthy work environment. PPE does not reduce the hazard itself nor does it guarantee permanent or total protection.
PPE is the last step in the hierarchy of controls, making it the last level of protection between the worker and the hazards. Therefore, it is especially important that the correct PPE is selected, worn, and maintained.
What do employers need to know?
“From headwear to footwear, ill-fitting PPE can cause safety hazards, reduced dexterity from oversized gloves, hard hats that fall off, baggy coveralls catching on equipment, and trips and falls because footwear or shoe covers are too large,” CCOHS state.
“Employers need to consider female workers when purchasing PPE. Some manufacturers produce unisex PPE but even they may not fit a woman properly. Employers should look for distributors and suppliers that offer a full range of for both men and women.”
“Providing PPE in this way can also accommodate the wide variety of different body types that exist in both male and female workers. By recognizing the physical differences between genders, employers can show support for female workers in construction by treating them fairly. This can also support the changing construction workplace culture as more women enter the industry,” CCOHS concluded.