Today, more and more women are entering the workforce. A workforce that has previously been dominated by male workers. As a result, the health and safety of women in the workplace is becoming a growing concern. While women have been successful in landing job roles traditionally occupied by men, women's lack of access to properly fitting personal protective equipment (PPE) has been a major issue. Here are some tips for women in selecting the right PPE for hands, feet and body.

Hand Safety

Protective gloves are the standard PPE for hand safety. There are many different types of protective gloves, each designed for specific job tasks. For example, cotton gloves protect materials handlers and chemical-resistant gloves protect those who work with chemicals. One of the main issues women face with hand safety is finding protective gloves that fit, as typically women's hands are smaller than men's hands. In most cases the fingers, palm circumference and the gauntlet or wristlet are too big. Additionally, ill-fitting gloves do not provide women with adequate protection, exposing them to additional risks.

When selecting protective gloves ensure that:

  • You choose a protective gloves that is best suited for the hazards that you may encounter at your workplace

  • The finger length and width, as well as palm circumference are the right fit for your hand

  • The protective gloves cover all exposed skin

  • The protective gloves are comfortable, allowing you to use your hands with ease; they are not awkward or clumsy to wear

  • The protective gloves allow you to grip tools safely and firmly

  • The gauntlets or wristlets fit over clothing to prevent your gloves from catching on machinery or 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 as they can become caught in the moving machinery

  • If using gloves for protection against chemicals, wash them with water before removing them from your hands

  • Store, care and maintain your protective gloves according to the manufacturer’s instructions

Foot Safety

The use of protective boots is the primary form of foot safety in the workplace. Protective or safety boots are designed to protect the foot from injuries, such as impact, being crushed and puncture, as well as hazards such as static electricity, live electricity and wet floors. These hazards require the use of specially designed safety boots, for example, steel-toe rubber boots. A large number of women are 'making do’ with protective footwear. Wearing boots that are too big, leave these women unprotected from the hazards of their jobs, increasing their risk of injury.

When selecting a safety boots ensure that:

  • You choose safety boots that is appropriate to the hazards of your job

  • You try on your safety boots with the number and type of socks that you would normally wear on the job

  • Your safety boots fit comfortably but snugly around the heel and ankle areas, as well as the ball of the foot

  • Check the distance between your toe and the toe of the boot and allow at least 3/8 inch space

  • Allow room for swelling (about 1/8 inch), especially if you stand or walk all day

Tips on safe use and maintenance:

  • Inspect your 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 your safety boots if the top-cap becomes exposed, loose or dented

  • Replace your 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 are the standard types of PPE for body protection in a wide variety of jobs. They provide the body with protection from hazards such as asbestos and toxic chemicals. Women bodies are shaped different from men, especially with regards to the torso length, chest/breast areas, waist and hips. These differences in body shape and size are also important where designing other types of PPE, such as harnesses for fall protection.

When selecting protective body safety wear ensure that:

  • The body protection that you choose is suitable for the hazards of your job.

  • Try on the garment before purchasing to check:

    • Torso length is sufficient when stretching, reaching, sitting, and bending over

    • Proper fit at the chest, waist and hips

  • You can move freely and comfortably in your selected apparel.

Tips on safe use and maintenance:

Store, care and maintenance your garment according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Repair or replacement any worn or torn protective clothing.