Meeting Compliance in Women's PPE
It is an employer's responsibility to provide employees with properly fitted safety gear, including PPE designed specifically for women's body types.
Compliance is essential when it comes to outfitting your team in the appropriate personal protective equipment.
Besides being the employers’ obligation, providing workers with appropriate safety protection is the best way to assure worker safety. As a result, you will significantly reduce unnecessary injury costs. Providing the necessary protective gear is unquestionably one of the best ways to prevent costly injuries.
Costs of Incidents and Regulatory Violations
OSHA and the NFPA maintain that it is the employer’s responsibility to conduct an arc flash assessment to identify potential hazards and provide the appropriate PPE to protect against those potential hazards. In addition to leaving workers vulnerable to injury, then, not providing proper safety equipment leaves the employer at risk for OSHA violations and fines.
“According to a 1995 PECO study, the cost of one accident will pay for AR clothing for up to 3,000 workers for five years.” - Hugh Hoagland, Incident Prevention
Consider the following:
- According to the American Burn Association's National Burn Repository 2014, burns that result in hospitalization can cost over $120,000 per case and require 11 to 13 days of in-hospital treatment
- The Liberty Mutual Research Foundation (Research to Reality, Work Related Electrical Injuries) reported that non-compliance injury is the second most costly workers compensation claim
Employers can reduce these expenses and injuries by providing proper protective equipment for the job site. Supplying all workers with comfortable protective clothing can increase compliance and lead to a safer, more productive workforce.
Additionally, it is the employer’s responsibility to educate employees on potential hazards and the correct use of PPE. Part of this education is making sure employees understand the proper fit of their safety gear. Without proper fit, compliance cannot be achieved.
(See Who Pays for Personal Protective Equipment? for related reading.)
Compliance and Proper Fit
“Whenever employers are required to purchase PPE, they should purchase these items in size ranges suitable for women.” - OSHA, Women in Construction
When it comes to meeting compliance standards, one size does not fit all. Proper fit is an important consideration in meeting compliance standards.
Poor fit can lead to increased risk of injury or accidents:
- Ill-fitting hard hats can slide or fall off
- Oversized safety glasses leave gaps
- Poor fit leaves areas of exposure
- Oversized garments lead to tripping or catching on equipment
(Learn more in One Size Does Not Fit All When It Comes to Protective Clothing.)
Providing PPE for Women
While the level of compliance and protection does not differ from person to person, there are some considerations that pertain specifically to women. Proper sizing is paramount, since an ill-fitting garment can become a hazard instead of serving its intended purpose of protecting the wearer.
Women are especially burdened when it comes to finding protective clothing that fits correctly. However, altering PPE should not be considered as an option as doing so can contribute to injury should an incident occur.
Additionally, altering safety gear can lead to negating a manufacturer’s warranty, reduced efficacy, and potentially voids garment compliance including ANSI/ISEA 107 (high visibility) and NFPA 2112 (flash fire). Therefore, it is to the benefit of the employer to provide protective clothing in a variety of sizes and fits. Multiple garments should be tried on to get the best fit.
(Learn more in Considering Comfort in Women's PPE.)
Talk to your supervisor or safety manager about women-specific safety apparel if you feel you are not being outfitted properly.
Compliance and Comfort
Once fit has been addressed, comfort should be considered. Comfort cannot be overlooked when it comes with the benefits of increased safety, productivity, and worker acceptance.
Material can make a big difference to the comfort levels of the user. Comfortable safety apparel should be lightweight, breathable, and moisture wicking. These three characteristics are important factors in reducing heat stress and keeping your employees focused on the job at hand.
- Lightweight: fabric that won’t weigh you down
- Breathable: allows heat and air to flow through
- Moisture Wicking: pulls moisture away from the body
Garments that reduce the risk of heat stress also help workers maintain better focus. When workers aren’t distracted by heat stress discomfort, they make fewer mistakes and engage in safer work practices. Human error is often the root cause of an arc flash incident, and by minimizing or eliminating heat stress as a factor you will yield a safer work environment.
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