Gender inequality at work remains a hot topic, with the latest figures on the gender pay gap out earlier this month. Of course, this is balanced against an increasing number of women in traditionally male-dominated industries. According to gender balance campaign group WISE, there’ll be 1 million women working in core science, tech, engineering and maths (STEM) roles by 2020. Yet for many women in these sectors, they have more pressing everyday problems. They’re still struggling to get properly sized personal protective equipment (PPE).
In this blog, we’re going to take a closer look at the issue of PPE that fits. From a lack of data at the design stage to misplaced efforts to ‘feminise’ workwear, there are many challenges. But as we’ve discussed before, a functioning lone worker safety system is in some ways an extension of PPE. So we’re going to look at steps we’ve taken to make sure that Safe Hub fits too.
The data behind women’s safety at work
Much of the problem is that women – and their bodies – are overlooked in research, development and design. This topic was covered in detail in a recent book by Caroline Criado-Perez, Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men. A good example is in car safety. Crash test dummies in cars are weighted and shaped for the average man. When testing for women, researchers use a smaller standard dummy, rather than one with the proportions of a woman’s body. As a result, seat-belt design is not optimised for women’s bodies and driving position. When a woman is involved in a car crash, she’s 47% more likely to be seriously injured and 17% more likely to die. That’s the case even when researchers control for factors such as height, weight, seatbelt usage, and crash intensity.
Similarly, little research has been done about traditionally female-dominated industries as these jobs are an extension of what women do at home. And in industries traditionally dominated by men, standard sizes of everyday items are optimised for men. In construction, a US study of union carpenters found women had higher rates of sprains, strains and nerve conditions than men. While there’s no firm data, it’s likely due to construction-site equipment being designed around the male body, from the weight of cement bags to the size of tool grips.
PPE that fits can sometimes seem like a dream
This ‘man size fits all’ approach is particularly acute in the field of PPE and safety wear. Many women report that their workwear just doesn’t fit. Common complaints are that trousers and sleeves are too long and become a trip hazard, or that knee-pads are in the wrong place. Poorly fitting footwear is a particular concern, leading to blisters, weeping sores and general discomfort. Even more shockingly, female police officers report being bruised by their kit belts. And as stab- and bullet-proof vests are often not fitted properly, a number have had to have physiotherapy because of the way stab vests sit on their body.
Meanwhile, in cases where there are women’s options available, attempts to ‘feminise’ workwear can be equally wide of the mark. There are reports of safety footwear with ‘Women in work’ stitched in pink on them. Similarly, there was an instance where female staff had a floral design sewed into the inside of a safety jacket, while men in the same company were given plain linings. Increasingly, however, there are workwear companies striking the right balance, by having properly fitted core products in women’s sizes. And they’re doing it without being patronising, or forcing women to disclose their detailed measurements to male colleagues.
Safe Hub is a lone worker safety system that fits
When choosing equipment and technology that protects their workers, many employers are making great strides at recognising difference without discriminating. One area where they can be assured that women’s safety at work won’t be compromised is with the Safe Hub lone worker safety system. When we’re deploying at any new client, we always look carefully at risk assessments. We look at how we can tailor our safety features to the everyday elements of a lone worker’s work tasks. This makes it all the easier to fit a lone worker safety system to the individual, not the gender of the job holder.
All of our dedicated devices are ideally sized; we don’t offer oversized tablet-phone hybrids which are uncomfortable to fit in one (smaller) hand. Our wearable devices come with a range of options, so we’re not tied to end-users having pockets either. For instance, the SOS Fob fits discreetly in the hand but can be worn on the wrist, upper arm or round the neck. What’s more, we’re determined to use the right language. We’re proud to have a reactive safety feature called Worker Down, when many in the health and safety sector refer to ‘Man Down’.
Women at work deserve PPE that fits. And when they’re working alone, they need to know that they have recourse to the help they need, as soon as they need it. With Safe Hub on their side, that’s one thing that’s definitely tailored to their requirements.
Contact Lone Worker Solutions and the Safe Hub team today
Post by Henry Robinson
As the Account Manager at Lone Worker Solutions (LWS), Henry introduces new clients to Safe Hub, our award-winning system to protect and monitor lone workers. Safe Hub is a package of buddy, proactive, reactive, broadcast and virtual barrier protection for lone workers.