Women's PPE

Trends in ... women’s PPE

‘More comfortable and secure’

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Nicole Novick has a story to share about personal protective equipment for women.

“Recently, a gentleman shared a story with me in which he was given a garment that was a few sizes too big for him,” said Novick, who is a product development manager at Radians. “He had to wear it on the jobsite and felt both uncomfortable and unsafe. This opened his eyes to the challenges women face when they’re provided men’s garments. He had heard women protest about wearing men’s garments but had never really felt the pain until he had to walk in their shoes.”

This is why, she says, it’s “imperative to understand that women want garments that fit well and also provide comfort and safety.”

Safety+Health talked with Novick and Lauren Brizendine, product and marketing manager at LAPCO, a Westex: A Milliken Brand partner, about PPE for women. Both shared their thoughts.

What are some recent innovations in PPE for women?

Novick: Savvy manufacturers are now designing women’s PPE with a woman’s form in mind. For example, the shoulders of PPE apparel have been narrowed, the waist shaped, and the sweep (hip line) provides more room and side slits for flexibility and mobility. Zippers are being raised and pockets are being moved to help women feel more comfortable and secure in their garments.

Brizendine: We’ve seen significant developments in fabric protection and performance, but the next wave of innovation is focused on ensuring these advanced fabrics appropriately fit end users once they become finished garments.

In the past, women often had to wear men’s garments, exposing them to safety issues from poor fit and excess fabric. Today, brands are catering to the nuances around fitting the female form by including feminine detailing in their trims and offering more products and sizes specifically for women.

What do you wish employers and workers better understood about selecting PPE for women?

Brizendine: When it comes to men’s and women’s PPE, one size does not fit all and little details make a big difference. Functional design elements such as higher plackets, darting and body-shaping seaming – paired with market fabric innovations in performance and stretch – provide women with better-fitting garments to improve comfort and safety on the job.

Beyond these choices, listening and responding to specific needs women have for their PPE is an effective strategy for building the right uniform. A simple conversation can reveal exactly what features are most important for the job.

What concerns or questions are customers coming to you with about PPE for women, and what advice do you provide?

Novick: Customers are asking for garments that fit well so they can offer equal protection no matter the gender. They also need clarification on the ANSI/ISEA 107 standards and how the requirements may restrict design.

Brizendine: For years, women were discouraged from working in heavy labor industries. But now, they’re realizing they can do whatever they want. This has caused the women’s PPE market to grow at a rapid rate, and in turn, customers are asking for better ladies’ PPE offerings.

It’s time to invest in more than just a “one-off” item when it’s needed. Women deserve – and the market demands – a full head-to-toe assortment of garments and accessories with styles, selection and availability equal to what’s offered for men.

Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association

Coming next month:

Disinfectants/cleaners

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