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Responding is Sherryl Stoner, customer service manager for inside sales and quality assurance, TECGEN FR Garments, Greenville, SC.
Flame-resistant garments are traditionally designed in two ways: for a man’s proportions or for unisex proportions. Today, though, women are entering this “man’s world” and taking on jobs that require constant FR wear – and they are not unisex-sized. The time is now to ensure women are outfitted safely and comfortably in the workplace.
Here is a guide of key considerations to include in your FR garment program for women:
1. Safety first. Rolling up your sleeves in a workplace where FR apparel is required is not an option. When women wear unisex or men’s FR garments, personal modifications like this are often made for a better fit. This can increase the likelihood of an injury. Oversized clothing can get caught in machinery, while coveralls with long bodies may cause a woman to trip and fall, and ultimately create issues for performing everyday tasks.
How can this be avoided? Start by selecting women’s FR garments that are designed in a range of sizes to accommodate different body types. Extra-small to plus-size options should be available. Then, ensure the fit of the shirts, pants and coveralls on your employees.
- Shirtsleeves should be short enough that they do not need to be rolled or cuffed.
- Shirttails should be long enough that they can be tucked into pants, but short enough to eliminate bunching.
- Coveralls should be fitted for woman’s hip and waist sizes so excess fabric does not get caught on equipment handles or affect mobility.
- The body, not just the sleeve and pant-length of the coverall, should fit the wearer.
- Select a shirt that has adjustable cuffs. Women’s wrist sizes can vary, so an adjustable cuff can help keep shirtsleeves from riding up.
2. Comfort means productivity. An uncomfortable worker may have discomfort on their mind rather than the job at hand. A misfit uniform could preclude workers from bending, lifting or moving fluidly. Women need the right tools for the job – and that means FR garments that are fitted appropriately.
These attributes for safety are also attributes of comfort. But in addition to size and cut, take into consideration a garment that is suitable for temperature to ensure comfort. In fact, a recent study1 found FR garment wearers consider light weight and breathability two of the most important aspects of comfort in FR garments.
- Examine the fabric quality and traits of the FR garment to ensure it is engineered for moisture-wicking and breathability. This is important for all seasons.
- Consider a garment in which the FR technology is inherent (woven into the fabric). This eliminates any heavy FR coatings that could make the garment uncomfortable or stiff.
- Provide specific instructions on what is acceptable onsite for extreme temperatures. Hot conditions should not permit rolled-up sleeves. Cold temperatures should not introduce non-FR hoodies or other flammable street wear.
3. Uniformity: Source the same FR garments for both men and women. Today’s FR garment programs must include options for women. These options should align with the garments selected for men. When sourcing FR garments, ensure the manufacturer offers the same fabric and features in garments for both women and men.
Women’s garments may differ from men’s in the sizing, cut and details such as smaller buttons, but to ensure workforce consistency, ensure logo, color and style remain consistent with other garments in the workplace.
A women’s FR program is not about getting more pink in the workplace. It is about equipping women with the right tool to help improve performance, comfort and safety. Women should feel comfortable, functional and safe from head to toe.
1FR Market Research Study – Bainbridge Strategy Consulting. June 2014.
Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.