Personal protective equipment Research/studies

UK study shows less than one-third of women workers have properly fitting PPE

female worker manufacture

Photo: mediaphotos/iStockphoto

London – Only 29 percent of women who wear personal protective equipment on the job in the United Kingdom receive PPE specifically contoured to their gender, according to a recent report from the Trades Union Congress, a UK-based federation of labor unions.

Researchers surveyed more than 5,000 women in various industries, including emergency services, retail, manufacturing and engineering. Of the women surveyed, 57 percent reported that their PPE hindered their work either “sometimes” or “significantly,” including 95 percent of respondents in the emergency services industry.

Other findings:

  • 41 percent of respondents said the protective pants their employers issued were inappropriate.
  • 35 percent who wore overalls said the garments were improper for the task at hand.
  • Half of the pregnant women surveyed were forced to curtail their normal workload or adjust their role because of a lack of suitable PPE.

Numerous UK standards require employers to provide proper PPE to workers free of charge, the report states.

“I’m shocked that so many women – even those working in frontline emergency services – do not have the right protective clothing to do their jobs safely,” TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said in an April 28 press release. “Bosses’ complacency risks serious injury. It shouldn’t be hard to ensure protective uniforms come in men’s and women’s sizes.”

The researchers recommend employers:

  • Avoid PPE suppliers who do not provide a range of sizes for men and women, and ensure suppliers have properly assessed the appropriateness of their equipment to women and men.
  • Make sure they provide the same range of sizes for women as for men.
  • Ensure women try on several sizes or types of PPE before it is issued to ensure the best fit.
  • Allow staff to provide feedback on the suitability of PPE.
  • Work with safety committees and labor union health and safety representatives to ensure the correct range of suitable PPE is provided.

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