PPE for Women: The Struggle for Safety

October 24th, 2018 by Jordan Scott

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is vital to the safety of every worker on the jobsite, but not every person can properly fit into it. Women in the industry can find themselves wearing PPE that is too big or doesn’t fit well on them. Even if it’s a pair of gloves fitting women appropriately, including window film installers, the right fit could make a big difference. Having ill fitted protective equipment may impact how they complete assigned jobs and tasks.

Sisters in the Building Trades has created a forum for tradeswomen to discuss relevant topics and share information, including where to buy PPE designed specifically for women. A new company called See Her Work is hoping to help tradeswomen across the U.S. be safer in the field.

“For me, PPE that’s designed for a smaller-framed body just makes my job safer,” says Rudy Mulligan, a carpenter with the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America Local 157.

Comments regarding the need for PPE specifically for women have become more common, that’s why Jane Henry, CEO of See Her Work, is hoping more in the industry take notice.

“I want to help attract and retain women in these lucrative careers,” she says.

Henry’s home in Houston was damaged by Hurricane Harvey in 2017. She served as a general contractor for the repairs she needed. At that time she realized there was a lack of well-fitting work clothes for women.

“All these ladies needed basic stuff,” she says, “from tops that close higher to protect against debris falling into their undergarments, to kit bags that would allow females to quickly change roles from field worker to office worker to mom with a ‘grab and go’ approach to organization.”

Tradeswomen told Henry they were tired of the “pink it and shrink it” approach to PPE.

“My biggest goal is awareness. Women are growing in the industry. I’m tired of the myth that women are not suited for these jobs,” says Henry. “I want to dress women to feel comfortable and confident.”

Henry says that code changes are needed to accommodate tradeswomen. See Her Work makes gloves, safety vests, work shirts, protective undergarments and bags all designed with women in mind. See Her Work offers clothing in sizes from extra small to 3X, or 00 to 24.

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