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Selecting the Right PPE for Women: Hand, Foot, and Body Safety

By Scott Laxton
Published: May 26, 2017 | Last updated: November 12, 2018 10:07:21
Presented by Cordova Safety Products
Key Takeaways

PPE designed for men may not be a good fit for women, leaving them exposed to additional risk.

Source: Nejron /

Women are not only entering the workforce in greater numbers than ever before but also making significant inroads in previously male-dominated industries. This poses a challenge for employers: ensuring everyone's safety when most of the work processes, work environment, and personal protective equipment (PPE) have been designed with men in mind. Lack of access to properly fitting PPE has been a major issue, but it can be resolved with a bit of awareness.

With that in mind, here are some tips for selecting the right hand, foot, and body PPE for women.

Hand Safety

Protective gloves are a standard feature of any hazardous work, and there are many varieties, each designed for specific job tasks. Cotton gloves, for instance, will protect material handlers but those working with chemicals will need supported gloves.


Finding protective gloves that fit is one of the biggest PPE challenges for women. Since women typically have smaller hands than men, gloves sized for men will tend to have fingers, palm circumferences, and gauntlets or wristlets that are too big. Settling for ill-fitting gloves is not merely a problem for the worker's comfort; gloves that can slip off, get caught more easily, or impede manual dexterity do not provide adequate protection and expose employees to additional risks.

When selecting protective gloves make sure that:

  • You choose a protective gloves that is best suited for the hazards that your employees may encounter on the job
  • The finger length and width, as well as palm circumference, are the right fit for the worker
  • The gloves cover all exposed skin on the hands
  • The gloves are comfortable, allowing employees to do manual tasks with ease
  • The gloves allow you to grip tools safely and firmly
  • The gauntlets or wristlets fit over clothing to prevent the gloves from catching on machinery and keep debris from falling inside of it

Tips on safe use and maintenance:

  • Check and test gloves daily before use for defects such as tears and leaks
  • Do not wear gloves near moving machine parts, since they can become caught in the moving machinery
  • If using gloves for protection against chemicals, wash them with water before removing them
  • Store, care, and maintain protective gloves according to the manufacturer’s instructions

Foot Safety

Protective or safety boots are designed to protect the foot from injuries, such as impact, crushing, and puncture, as well as hazards such as static electricity, live electricity, and wet floors. Depending on the specific hazards in the workplace or on the job site, workers may need to be equipped with specially designed safety boots, such as steel-toe rubber boots.

Unfortunately, a large number of women are making do with protective footwear of the wrong size. Wearing boots that are too big leave these women unprotected from the hazards of their jobs and increase their risk of injury as a result of tripping.

When selecting safety boots make sure that:

  • You choose safety boots that are appropriate to the hazards of your job
  • Employees try on their safety boots with the type of socks they would normally wear on the job
  • The safety boots fit comfortably but snugly around the heel and ankle areas, as well as the ball of the foot
  • There is at least a 3/8 inch space between the wearer's toe and the toe of the boot
  • Allow room for swelling (about 1/8 inch), especially if workers stand or walk all day

Tips on safe use and maintenance:

  • Inspect safety boots daily before use for damage
  • Keep the outside, especially the soles of your safety boots, free from stones, nails, and other debris
  • Replace safety boots if the top-cap becomes exposed, loose, or dented
  • Replace safety boots if the sole grips become worn out
  • Store, care, and maintain your safety boots, following the manufacturer’s instructions

Other Protective Apparel

Overalls, coveralls, and jumpsuits must be worn in a wide variety of jobs and protect the worker from hazards such as asbestos and toxic chemicals (see Personal Protective Equipment and Asbestos Handling to learn more).

Women's bodies are shaped differently than men's, especially with regards to torso length, chest, waist, and hips. These differences in body shape and size are also important when selecting other types of safety gear, such harnesses.

When selecting protective body safety wear make sure that:

  • The body protection that you choose is suitable for the hazards of your job
  • Try on the garment to check:
    • Torso length is sufficient when stretching, reaching, sitting, and bending over
    • Proper fit at the chest, waist, and hips
  • The employee can move freely and comfortably while wearing the apparel

Tips on safe use and maintenance:

  • Store, care, and maintain safety garments according to the manufacturer’s instructions
  • Repair or replace any worn or torn protective clothing

Check out the rest of our content about Personal Protective Equipment here.


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Written by Scott Laxton | PPE Industry Veteran

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Scott Laxton is a PPE industry veteran with more than 28-years of experience in Product Development, Marketing, Purchasing & Sales.

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