Women's PPE

Trends in ... women’s PPE

“’Pink it and shrink it’ isn’t working” when it comes to personal protective equipment and clothing for women, Sara De Luca, co-founder of Dovetail Workwear, contends. Here’s what else De Luca and Christina Postell, senior merchandise manager at Bulwark Protection, had to say about the women’s PPE market.

A better understanding …

De Luca: First, you can’t claim to offer real women’s PPE without proper-fitting garments and serious investment put in regarding pattern development and grading. Secondly, extended sizing is mandatory. If you can’t provide PPE for both the size-zero woman and the size-20 woman, you aren’t adequately servicing the market. No industry is defined by a body shape or size and, in fact, your top performers will come in a beautiful array. 

Postell: I wish employers would consider that telling a woman to wear men’s PPE in a smaller size is the same as telling men to wear women’s clothing in a larger size. It’s not only uncomfortable, it’s also unsafe. When your PPE doesn’t fit properly, we’re talking dragging, snagging and tripping hazards – just to name a few. There are companies making women’s PPE, and it’s important to provide access to these products to the women on your staff.

When it comes to innovation …

De Luca: Manufacturers have gotten the message loud and clear that “pink it and shrink it” isn’t working. Women need PPE designed for their bodies and dimensions in order to be safe and optimize performance. Increasingly, the flame resistant fabric mills understand that lighter-weight FR options need to be made available, along with qualities with more stretch. The traditional approach with stiff, uncomfortable fabrics is no longer going to cut it. Companies understand that you can’t recruit and maintain a diverse workforce without providing uniform options that employees want to wear – meaning they fit well and provide mobility and comfort. 

Addressing concerns …

De Luca: There are many companies that will make statements about DEI and the importance of diversity in their workforce. That group of companies narrows considerably when it comes to “walking the walk” and providing the same range of PPE options to their female employees as their male teams. It’s still a numbers game, so it takes companies with real vision and conviction to take a stand and provide adequate gear for women, even though they’re still a fraction of the workforce and the investment in gear may not be proportionate to the gender statistics.

Postell: Concerns and questions are always around availability in inventory and sizes. Lately we’re fielding more inquiries around maternity options, which are slim to none in the FR PPE space. We do our best to find an option for our customers. In the event of maternity, if there are no good options, we try to think of stretch fabrics that will grow with the working soon-to-be moms.

Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association

Coming next month:

  • Eyewashes/showers
  • Training and education

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