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Inclusive PPE means better protection for employees

8th March 2024

Personal protection equipment (PPE) serves as a line of defence to protect workers from physical hazards they may encounter in the workplace such as sharp surfaces and wood dust, while ensuring workers can perform their tasks safely and effectively.

It may not be enough to offer standard equipment, correct fit on the worker is a vital part of its effectiveness. Employers should not use a ‘one size fits all’ approach when purchasing PPE for their employees, as ill-fitting or uncomfortable PPE can jeopardise worker safety and can lead to dire consequences.

Different body shapes

Achieving inclusivity goes beyond simply offering a range of sizes, you should also consider factors such as the difference between genders, respiratory variations and psychological factors.

In construction, many workers are required to wear gloves and face masks to minimise their exposure to potentially hazardous materials.

For workers who need to wear gloves, those with larger hands may find standard glove sizes too tight and potentially restrict their movement while at work. For workers with smaller hands, they may find the standard-sized gloves too large, and they may slip off during work.

Some workers may find it overwhelming to wear a relatively tight-fitting face mask, which may affect their ability to breathe comfortably while working. This may be particularly uncomfortable if the worker needs to wear glasses or if they have facial hair.

Fit Clinics

To bridge the gap, the Safety & Health Practitioner (SHP) is running a campaign known as Protection for everyone which aims to raise awareness around the issues of ill-fitting PPE, and lobby government to bring about the change.

At the same time, uvex safety is currently providing “fit clinics” to support PPE decision-makers in selecting and developing an implementation strategy for correctly fitting PPE.

“Women in particular struggle to find suitably sized PPE. This has become more apparent with the increased number of female employees working in construction, manufacturing, oil and gas, aerospace, and warehousing, distribution, and logistics.” Said Clair Weston, B2B Marketing Manager of uvex safety.

The proportion of women in the construction workforce rose to 12.9% in 2022 from 9.7% in 2016 according to uvex safety figures.

If the industry is serious about attracting a more diverse workforce into construction, we need to ensure PPE are adequate for every worker.

More women are entering the traditionally male-dominated industry sectors, and ensuring their safety is important for developing industries.

By embracing inclusive PPE design principles, businesses can ensure the well-being of their employees, and foster a safe and more productive environment for everyone.

Visit the SHP’s website to learn more about the Protection for everyone campaign.

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