18 April 2024
by Sarah Morgan

PPE for women does not fit

A survey reveals women are ignored when it comes to providing safe and effective personal protective equipment (PPE).

© Photo by Ömer Yıldız on Unsplash

A consultation of the female workforce in UK engineering, surveying just under 1,500 wearers of PPE, was conducted by The Women’s Engineering Society (WES) over six months.

The analysis shows that women are being ignored when it comes to providing safe and effective PPE, resulting in dangerous working practices for women and a lack of equality within the workplace.

The results were analysed by Rocket Science, an independent research organisation.

WES aims to change these practices by measuring thousands of women to develop proper-fitting PPE and engaging with manufacturers and government to produce safe and effective PPE for all.

They are calling on all women who wear PPE to get involved.

The results of the 2024 survey show how little has changed since WES’ first PPE survey in 2009.

Only 26% of women say PPE fits comfortably or perfectly while 60% men report this.

Therefore women are wearing items that don’t fit or potentially are giving up work.

Some respondents note the climbing harnesses, lifejackets, or air systems they use do not work for their bodies increasing risk to life.

42% of women report that PPE is often too big to fit correctly, resulting in women making modifications against Health Safety and Environment (HSE) guidance.

A key finding of the survey is the lack of maternity PPE, with 61% of pregnant women not being provided with correct items allowing them to work safely.

There is also no provision for PPE to accommodate bodily changes due to periods or the menopause, or medical conditions such as stomas or limb differences.

The survey found when these challenges and their effects are raised with colleagues or managers, little is done to facilitate women’s access to better fitting PPE.

In some cases, women are even ridiculed for raising these concerns.