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July 21, 2014

Safety Tip: Proper PPE Fit For Women

Use personal protective equipment every time.
Workplace surveys continually cite lack of comfort, fit and style as reasons that PPE is not worn. This can be especially true for women. Goggles, safety harnesses and especially gloves designed for men often do not fit women properly. Fortunately, more and more safety equipment manufacturers are designing safety equipment from gloves to welding helmets to fit women.

Here are a variety of tips to help women (and men) find PPE that really fits:

  • Safety gloves – Ensure all skin is covered; the gloves allow for a safe grip; and the finger length, width and palm circumference of the gloves match those of the hands. Some men may find that large women's sizes fit them better.
  • Safety goggles – Beware of goggles that state “one size fits all.” Some may be too large for a woman’s face and could allow objects, fluids or other hazardous materials to enter through gaps in the seals.
  • Ear plugs – Disposable foam ear plugs are more likely to fit women, who typically have smaller ear canals than men.
  • Hard hats – Adding a chin strap can help hard hats or caps fit better and not fall off.
  • Protective clothing – Modifying men's clothing to fit a woman, by rolling up sleeves or pant legs, can be dangerous because the excess material could get caught in machinery.
  • Fall protection harnesses - These can create special problems for women. In addition to size differences, they must accommodate obvious differences in body shape. Harnesses designed for women are available.
  • Unisex PPE - Test the fit of unisex sizes before allowing female workers to use them, especially boots and gloves.
  • Order multiple sizes of PPE in both men's and women’s sizes to help workers find a good fit.
  • Ensure both female and male workers try on more than one size of PPE to select the best fit. The overall combination of body dimensions is what actually determines their size.

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