Women in Construction

Personal Protective Equipment

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Many women in nontraditional jobs, such as the construction trades, have encountered improperly fitting personal protective equipment (PPE) and personal protective clothing (PPC) which may compromise their personal safety.

Personal protective equipment used by women workers should be based upon female anthropometric (body measurement) data. Women should make a point to test employer provided PPE, and if the provided PPE is uncomfortable, or not suitable for the worker (e.g., improperly fitting or damaged from wear or defect) they should report this condition to their employer for a suitable replacement.

PPE must fit properly so that it can effectively protect the employee from the hazard for which it was designed. Today there has been tremendous progress in the availability of PPE for women. The International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) reports that many employers now provide a full range of sizes for PPE. ISEA lists manufacturers who offer safety equipment in various sizes that is appropriate for women in construction.

The Ontario Women’s Directorate and the Industrial Accident Prevention Association (IAPA) co-authored a 35 page publication titled, Personal Protective Equipment For Women – Addressing the Need.

Both, the ISEA list and IAPA publication can be found under PPE for Women.

Other Related Factors Include:
  • Limited employer knowledge in how to obtain health and safety products specifically, designed for females working in non-traditional jobs, and
  • Limited availability of a full range of stock and sizes of PPE, at the retail/wholesale/distributor levels for health and safety product lines designed for women workers.
  • Providing Safety and health Protection for a Diverse Construction Workforce: Issues and Ideas. NIOSH/CDC, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication 99-140, 5 pages (1999).

Best Practice: In addition to compliance with the OSHA regulations, whenever employers are required to purchase PPE, they should purchase these items in size ranges suitable for women. Employers should maintain a directory of PPE manufacturers and suppliers on hand, identify a wide selection of size ranges for PPE, keep appropriate size ranges in stock, and ensure direct accessibility, as required. Remember: One size does not fit all!


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