Women in Construction: One Size Does Not Fit All

Kristi Pronovost The Merit Shop Spokesman Blog

By: Ashley Buckingham, Marketing Director, D.E. Gemmill, Inc.

Over the last decade, a large number of women have joined the construction industry in a variety of roles – from management and sales to on site work and operation of large equipment. Women continue to break boundaries and challenge misconceptions about women in the workforce. As the number of women working within the industry continues to rise, so should the employer’s concerns for their safety.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) and safety apparel is one of the last lines of defense to protect workers against injury. While both male and female construction workers face many of the same occupational hazards, women are less fortunate than men when it comes to finding PPE and safety apparel that fits properly for their size and build. These unique challenges greatly impact women, and failure of acknowledging them can heighten their risk of work-related injuries or death.

Wearing ill-fitting construction equipment is not only uncomfortable, but it is also dangerous. Areas of protective equipment that should be designed specifically for women workers include: head, eye/face, body, hand and foot protection. Over-sized clothing can pose a danger of snagging on equipment, getting caught in machinery or simply impeding the motor functions necessary to perform a task successfully. If a fall protection safety harness is not available in the correct size, a woman could risk slipping out, or it could impose serious injuries.

Ill-fitting hand protection poses as one of the biggest dangers. Oversize gloves can cause workers to be less capable of handling tools with precision, and make for more difficulty in performing fine detailed movements. Along with loose fitting clothing, poor fitting gloves may also get caught in equipment or machinery, resulting in the possibility of horrible consequences.

Other essential safety features are safety glasses or other protective eyewear and footwear. Eye and foot protection designed for men may often be too large for women. If the eye protection is not a good fit, debris and other materials may get past them and cause injury to the eyes. Men’s-sized work boots are larger and wider than that of women’s, making the boots a hazard of slips, trips and falls to a woman. Cuts and abrasions may also accrue due to blistering, and her toes may not be covered by the protective steel or composite material in the toe cap.

Women working in welding or utility industries are also at risk of being exposed to flames and arc flashes in the workplace. For these women, properly fitting flame-resistant clothing is essential. Flame-resistant clothing should not be loose-fitting or it’s at greater risk of coming in contact with flame. Women should select Flame Resistant clothing that is tight but also breathable and that meets industry safety standards.

As you can see, women face increased dangers and risks if their companies are not made aware of importance of finding them properly fitting safety apparel and PPE. As the construction workforce continues to diversify, it’s imperative for companies to revisit and revise traditional practices in order to provide safe and healthy work conditions for all. Please ensure all workers are equipped with necessary, well-fitting and reliable precautions to keep them safe and efficient
day after day.

January 7, 2020