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PPE for Women in Construction

The number of women in the construction industry is growing, yet many struggle to find PPE and clothing that is suitable on site.  Rolling up trousers or wearing safety boots that are too big cause discomfort and create trip hazards and PPE such as gloves and safety specs that don’t fit correctly create inadequate protection levels.  Ill-fitting ladies' PPE looks unprofessional and affects the health & safety compliance on site.

Due to women making as little as 15% of the UK construction workforce, creating an inclusive environment is important. Ensuring any employee is equipped to do their job is an important task for any purchasing manager. The Trades Union Congress (TUC) showed that 57% of those women who took part found that their PPE sometimes or significantly hampered their work. By providing PPE items such as jackets, footwear, gloves, glasses, and clothing that fits correctly, women are included within the construction industry.

The variety of garments and personal protective equipment available is vast. Selecting garments for your workers that are appropriate for their role and fits well is key. The Health & Safety Executive advise that you let the wearer select their PPE as they are more likely to use it. They also state that the PPE selected must suit the user. This should include the size, fit and weight of the PPE. Yet for the 51 per cent of the female population, obtaining suitable supplies in their size is not always possible.

Cut and Fit for Ladies’ PPE

Often employers may think that all that is required for women is get the same PPE for men, but smaller. This unisex approach to PPE can lead to significant problems. While most people associate size as a challenge for women’s PPE, cut and fit play a large part in ensuring employee comfort and adequate protection while wearing PPE. PPE for women needs to be fitted to female proportions and characteristics.

PPE specifically for women can be designed to meet the following criteria ensuring that personal protective equipment offers optimal protection.

Body configurations. Women’s bodies are body configurations are different from those of men. There are marked differences in the size and proportion of male and female hips, chests, and thighs.

Feet. A typical woman’s foot is both shorter and narrower than a typical man’s foot. So, a smaller man’s boot may be the right length but not the right width.

Hands. A woman's hands are generally smaller, with shorter, narrower fingers, and a smaller palm circumference. Gloves that are not designed for women will have the palm area too large and the elongated fingers are too wide.

Faces. Women's faces are usually smaller in length, breadth and circumference than men's. Protective eyewear needs to accommodate this.

Ears. Some women have small ear canals and can have difficulty rolling typical plugs small enough to make them fit.

PPE Regulations Designed for Men

ISO20471, the regulation that sets out the minimum areas for fluorescent and reflective materials was designed with men in mind.  Leo Workwear’s marketing manager states that "the standards are not designed for women because smaller sizes do not generally include enough material to meet the ISO requirements."

ISO20471 is designed to keep the wearer safe while working, yet at Leo Workwear they suggest that women wear full high visibility top and trousers to ensure they comply with legal requirements.

Why is PPE for Women important?

Besides the legal requirements for an employer to provide PPE that meets Health and Safety Standards. PPE designed to fit the female form increases productivity as employees are not held back by the garments they are wearing, which in turn lets them get on with the project at hand without additional concern over health & safety risks.

Not only does providing the correct PPE bring fewer risks and increased productivity, but it also provides a sense of belonging. Equipping your female workforce with the right tools for the task isn’t only a legal requirement, is a subtle yet constant message of appreciation and welcome into the construction industry.

At Bryson, we’re focused on ensuring women in construction are provided with the correct PPE and we’ve been growing our range to meet this need.  Bryson’s range is continually developing to suit all persons on site. We have a range of smaller glasses designed for women and a maternity hi visibility range for safety and comfort while on site.  We also have a range of ladies' safety boots, not just safety boots that come in smaller sizes. 

Working closely with our clients is important to understand the changing trends and requirements on site. This allows us to develop a range that ensures everyone enjoys their time in Construction.  

Posted: 09/03/2022