Why is PPE needed for women?

by Natasha Mughal

Recently, we shared the news of Transport for London (TfL) launching a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) range that is specifically designed for women on our LinkedIn page, and we were inundated with positive comments about the progressive move in the industry. The major move marks 100 Years of Women in Transport, but it made us wonder why it was needed and why it wasn't possible for women to wear men's safety equipment?

When three of the ladies from HSE Recruitment Network visited The Crossrail Project earlier this year, they received a first-hand account of why this PPE range is long overdue. They all wore the standard mens PPE, that until quite recently has been used as a "one size fits all" safety uniform, but it is massively ill-fitting, with the sleeves rolling down, socks having to be stuffed into shoes to make them fit and trousers being so long that they had to be rolled up.

To summarise, it was just too loose and too long for the women, and a safety hazard within itself. Before this point, it wasn't something that would have been considered by the consultants or members of the team, as this was the only occasion where it was required, but it allowed for a understanding of why there may be a lack of women within the health and safety industry and how those that are, are not catered to.

Danielle Stallard, HSE Consultant and one of the ladies that visited The Crossrail Project, said "After recently wearing the standard fit myself, there was an obvious need for this development. We were visiting the Crossrail Project and were provided with universally-sized PPE - my trousers were far too long and had to be rolled up so as not to drag on the floor, and I wasn’t the only one! There were several ladies in the room who were having to try on different jackets, trousers, gloves and glasses in order to find a reasonable fit. It is fantastic that TfL have taken the time to develop a varied range that allows women to carry out their work safely and comfortably – I can only imagine the relief that the many women working with TfL are feeling!"

Safety Uniform PPE

TfL is not the only company to have seen this gap in the industry, with companies such as Network Rail and Arco already implementing similar safety uniforms and the Women in Health and Safety (WIHS) campaigning to have PPE specifically designed for women.

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“London will need more engineers by the end of the decade to build the critical infrastructure we need, so it’s important that we take every step we can to make construction a more welcoming environment for all.” - TfL

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The range that is being launched by TfL includes high-visibility jackets, trousers, gloves, adjustable eye protection and safety boots. The range has been designed with the results of a six-week trial at hand and will allow for a better fit for the female staff, making life more comfortable and allowing for less distractions. 

Many are surprised that it has taken so long for specifically designed range for women to be launched, Rhaynukaa Soni – Health and Safety Manager at MTR Corporation (Crossrail) Limited, commented that "I suppose my thoughts are that a part of me is stunned it has taken this long to both acknowledge the need for & subsequently provide PPE designed for women. Equally though it is reflectively of the Rail & Construction sectors which remain heavily male dominated. This PPE is positive step towards recognizing the increase need to diversify & growing numbers of women joining these industries."

We hope this marks a change for women in similar sectors, and will nudge other companies within the engineering, construction, transportation and other areas, to see the need for PPE designed for women and to boost diversity within their workforces. 

What are your thoughts? Considering this is the 100th year of women being in transport, do you think that this news is overdue? Will it allow for more diversity within the industry? Let us know your opinion by tweeting us @HSE_Jobs.

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