The continued fight for well-fitting women’s PPE

Last month, an advisory panel on women in Armed Forces in the United States had to make the request for correct and functional women’s Personal Protective Equipment once more.
The report from the panel reads that although they felt encouraged by scientific and technological advancements ‘servicewomen continue to lack accessibility to this new equipment for both training and deployment…. Now that all military occupations have been opened to women, there is an increased need for female-appropriate personal protective equipment and combat gear.’
The annual report from a March Defence Advisory Committee on Women in the Services reads that ‘women are the most likely to suffer from injuries as a result of incorrectly fitting gear.’
Given that women in the Armed Forces need their PPE to be fitted correctly in order to potentially save their lives, the issue is one that has been consistently raised since 1978. The most recent data from the Bureau of Labour Statistics show that women make up more than 47% of the U.S. workforce, with a growing number working in construction and manufacturing.
By not providing adequate protection to workers, employers are exposed to retention issues as well as sex discrimination claims.
Female workers in industries like oil and gas, construction, and machining have complained about a lack of access to safety items. Many are forced to wear ill-fitting harnesses, hard hats, fall protection, and gloves, said Abby Ferri, a workplace safety professional who heads the Women In Safety Excellence common interest group at the American Society of Safety Professionals.
Ill-fitting gear can pose a range of safety risks by snagging on ladders and exposing the body to hazards. Companies that don’t address the issue also risk losing workers they try hard to attract and retain.
“One thing we have seen is that if an employer didn’t respond to the requests” for properly fitting equipment, the worker would exit that workplace, Ferri said in a phone interview with Bloomberg Law
Providing protective gear that fits female bodies is just one part of achieving equality for women at work, said Emily Martin with the National Women’s Law Center.
“Making sure women can do the job safely is an important part of making sure women feel they are welcome on the job,” she said. Fixing this problem is “a symbol of normalizing women in this work.”
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