Ill-fitting protective equipment puts women at risk

A study by the union Prospect has found that industry protective equipment is still not suited to female workers, compromising their comfort and safety.

Ill-fitting protective equipment puts women at risk

The survey, carried out by Prospect identified the energy sector, alongside emergency services, as among the worst sectors for providing protective equipment designed with women in mind.

The survey found that provision of female PPE across sectors has improved slightly since 2009, but that progress in changing what is on offer to women workers is slow. Just 29% of survey respondents said that the PPE they wear at work was designed for women while 57% reported that their PPE sometimes or significantly hampered their work. A further 27% said that they were occasionally hampered.

Trousers, overalls, jackets and gloves were identified as the items least likely to provide a suitable fit. Excluding overalls, these items were cited most frequently as the worst PPE clothing in the previous research.

Prospect carried out the study in May, in partnership with Women in Science and Engineering (WES), the Trades Unions Congress and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. The findings have been released just in advance of National Women in Engineering Day 2016 on 23 June.

Responses to Prospect’s survey were received from 3,086 women between the ages of 20 and 59 and from a wide array of sectors.

Prospect deputy general secretary, Sue Ferns said: “These findings are stark when considered against data from the Health and Safety Executive showing that 142 people were killed at work in 2014-5 and 611,000 injured.

“Equipping workers properly should not be seen as optional and it can be done.”

When asked how PPE could be improved, survey respondents suggested having women’s sizes available as standard and an appropriate and accurate measuring system or changing room where PPE can be tried on.

 “Companies should consider this when purchasing and managing PPE supplies, and also whether women have access to changing facilities, including toilets, at all locations.”


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