Unfortunately, many manufacturers of personal protective equipment (PPE) have not kept up with the changing workforce. More women in all types of industries and positions historically held by men are now entering the workplace.
In the industrial workplace, this means that most gloves, eye gear, gowns, and other safety clothing, originally designed for men may not fit well on women because of their different body builds. "[Because of this,] women must take time in selecting proper protective gear," says Vicky Adams, senior category manager for safety and gloves for Impact Products, manufacturer of safety-related products. "Always remember, if protective clothing does not fit properly, it can't do its job protecting the worker." To help address this issue, Adams offers the following five tips for selecting PPE for women: Gloves: Gloves should have a "snug" fit-too tight, and they will quickly become uncomfortable; too large, and they will be clumsy. The gloves should allow for a tight grip so that tools do not fall out of the hand. Advises Adams, "Select gloves that are resistant to the chemicals used when working, and they should come up over the wrist and slightly up the arm." Eye gear: Avoid "one size fits all" eye gear. The worker should try on different types of eye gear for comfort. "Selecting non-vented or indirect-vented eye gear helps prevent dust, chemicals, and splatter [from] getting into the eye," says Adams. Full-body clothing: Do not select PPE designed for men and then try to modify it to fit a woman's body. "This can hinder movement, and any excess material can get attached to something and tear the gown," says Adams. Style: While fit is key, the look and style of the PPE is also very important. Says Adams, "If the female worker does not like how it looks on her, she is less likely to wear it." Compliance: Know if there are any OSHA, FDA, NIOSH, or ANSI* regulations that apply to the PPE worn in your industry. Always make sure that any PPE item selected complies with these regulations.