Personal protective equipment (PPE) is an essential tool to protect the safety of workers in a wide range of hazardous industries. However, as the number of women entering predominantly male-dominated sectors like construction continues to grow, they face the persistent problem of finding PPE that fits their body types. This article will explore the challenges and risks associated with improperly fitting PPE for women and how some manufacturers are addressing long-underserved PPE user groups by developing more equitable PPE.
Challenges Women Face in Finding Properly Fitting PPE
PPE sold within the United States comes in standard sizes based on the shape and size of an average American man, which creates issues for women. The sizes and shapes of female bodies are much different than those of men and generally have smaller bone structures, with narrower hands and smaller facial shapes and features. These differences can lead to challenges for women when searching for and selecting PPE.
Most PPE marketed towards women is often the same gear sold to men, just in a smaller size or a different color. However, women don't just need smaller PPE; they also need it to fit their bodies' unique shapes. Because most PPE is made for men, it's often challenging for women to find comfortable and functional gear that fits. As a result, women are left wearing poorly fitting workwear, which can negatively affect their impression of competence, professionalism, and self-confidence in the workplace.
While many women have given up on finding PPE that matches their body shape, some can't even find the correct size gear. Logically, PPE manufacturers produce the highest volume of PPE in the most commonly worn sizes. As a result, finding smaller-sized PPE that fits the average woman can be challenging, and many women settle for work wear that may be several sizes too big.
This lack of availability can contribute to the perception that specific industries are male dominated, deterring some from entering these career paths. It also encourages the customization of PPE to find the right fit, which can reduce the level of protection provided.
Lack of Awareness and Education
Another familiar challenge women face is the general lack of understanding amongst employers about the importance of proper fit regarding the effectiveness of PPE. This lack of knowledge means that women who approach their employers about purchasing PPE designed for women may get pushback. As a result, these women may never get the PPE they need or be delayed in receiving the proper protection well-fitting PPE provides.
The Risks of Ill-Fitting PPE for Women
Properly fitting PPE isn't just about style and comfort; it's also about functionality and safety. Let's look at some of the most significant risks poorly fitting PPE creates for female workers.
Increased Likelihood of Injury
The primary risk of poorly fitting PPE is the increased likelihood of injury it causes. When work wear does not fit properly, it can affect the wearer's ability to move, create distractions or even become caught during use. These factors can contribute to reduced protection and an increased risk of workplace injury.
For example, an oversized high-visibility vest with excess or baggy material can get caught in rotating equipment and pull the user in. In addition, poorly fitting safety glasses can slip off during work or leave significant gaps allowing debris to get into their eyes.
Employers need to understand the dangerous situation they create when they take a one-size-fits-all approach to their PPE purchases. Protective workwear that isn't comfortable or fits properly is less likely to be worn by workers. As a result, some may remove their PPE more often or use it less frequently, putting them at increased risk during hazardous activities. For employers, this creates the risk of regulatory non-compliance and the potential for workplace accidents, injuries, and their direct and indirect costs.
Bringing Equity to PPE
Pyramex is confronting this long-standing issue head-on by now offering gender-specific PPE options. With safety glasses and high-visibility workwear designed for women's shapes, sizes, and needs, Pyramex is helping increase compliance, reduce risk, and promote a safer workplace for everyone. As a result, women can now go to work confident, comfortable, and knowing that they not only look good but are also protected.
High-Visibility Women's Work Wear
Pyramex's RVZF61 Series high-visibility women's work wear are high-quality garments with fluorescent backgrounds on woven polyester materials explicitly designed for women. In addition, they offer a cinched waste for adjustable tailored sizing, allowing women to find the perfect size and fit for their exact needs.
The RVZF61 Series also has a comfortable padded collar and three-inch silver reflective striping for enhanced visibility and protection. In addition, the expandable tablet pocket includes a secure hook and loop closure, and reach-through back provides additional storage with a zipper closure. All these features mean that women no longer need to compromise regarding PPE. Instead, they can get the comfort and fit they need with the versatility and functionality their job demands.
Safety Glasses for Women
The PMXSLIM® Series eyewear is specifically developed to fit slimmer faces and accommodate smaller facial features. As a result, these safety glasses closely match the contours of a woman's face and reduce the risk of fogging, slipping, or obstructing vision, all while offering a high level of protection for the eyes.
In addition, a soft and adjustable nose piece ensures a comfortable and secure fit and co-injected temples with rubber tips provide a nonslip fit that stays in place during even the most demanding jobs. All these features combine to make the PMXSLIM® series an excellent choice for anyone seeking functionality, style, and safety.
Pyramex Can Help
Overcoming the challenges and risks of improperly fitting PPE for women is essential to promoting workplace safety and equality. When companies acknowledge their female workers' unique needs and purchase gender-specific PPE, they take a proactive step toward addressing the issue. Pyramex is on the front lines of this problem and creating more equitable PPE for women so they can do their jobs comfortably and safely.
Explore our Women's PPE collection here.