Discussion Thread

Launching PPE Based on Feedback from Female Workforce

  • 1.  Launching PPE Based on Feedback from Female Workforce

    Posted 11-21-2019 07:59 AM

    Recently Jarrett Milligan, vice president of environmental, health and safety (EHS) program for the northeast region's building operations at Skanska, wrote the following article on their launch of tailor-made PPE to better fit the need of the female workforce: https://www.usa.skanska.com/who-we-are/media/constructive-thinking/launching-tailor-made-ppe-for-our-female-workforce-nationwide/ 

    In the article, he notes the danger that ill-fitting PPE can be: "This can lead to a variety of concerns, most importantly that of safety. If gloves are too large, an individual's dexterity is reduced and they cannot properly grasp onto things. Long and baggy vests are more likely to catch or snag on handrails, doors, and equipment." 

    I have experience with this topic first-hand when I went to buy my first pair of work boots! To get properly fitting boots in a store, I had to get a size 5.5 from the boy's section. (Thankfully I now have options like Red Wing and other shoe stores to buy in women's boots in store and many more options online)

    Additional article on the topic: https://www.bdcnetwork.com/skanska-designs-personal-protective-equipment-tailor-made-female-workforce? 

    Excited to hear your thoughts on the topic or if you having similar experiences of what you did to find proper fitting PPE. 



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    Danielle Schroeder EIT, A.M.ASCE
    Associate Engineer
    Pennoni Associates
    Philadelphia PA
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  • 2.  RE: Launching PPE Based on Feedback from Female Workforce

    Posted 11-22-2019 08:51 AM
    This is very exciting! I hope that more companies will do something similar. I have heard that if safety vests were any smaller, they would not meet the high-visibility standards for working along roads. Do you know which type of vests these are (i.e. off-road or traffic control) and if these meet the ANSI standards for that type?

    When I first started I had a similar issue with boots. The main company supplier did not have women's boots that met the company's specifications nor did they have the smaller men's sizes in store to try-on. I didn't know what size I wore in men's shoes, so I waited and found a women's shoe on my own that met my needs. Thankfully, I had a good pair of steel toe boots from my internship, so I could do without them for a while. Where I work now, we have trucks that come and offer boots to try on and I definitely see more and better options for women than I did back then.

    I did get the standard issue warm parka, but I agree with the safety concerns. The sleeves were much too long for me!

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    Rachael Holland P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer IV
    City of Alexandria
    Alexandria VA
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  • 3.  RE: Launching PPE Based on Feedback from Female Workforce

    Posted 11-25-2019 10:09 AM
    Thankful that someone is looking into this! When I first entered the field a few years back, I was talking with a girl from my class about this. Even though I don't need a tiny size of vest, my hourglass shape makes the standard vests ill-fitting. It's either extra baggy somewhere or won't Velcro the full length.
    Right now I primarily visit sites for meetings and observation reports, so I have a size down and leave it open.
    Back in 2014 I also had basically one or two options for steel toed boots to try on in store. Didn't love what I ended up with, and they didn't carry a 5 in the men's boots in most stores.

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    Heidi Wallace EI, A.M.ASCE
    Engineer Intern
    Tulsa OK
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  • 4.  RE: Launching PPE Based on Feedback from Female Workforce

    Posted 11-25-2019 11:22 AM
    A couple years ago when I started at my current job, my company bought me this vest: High Visibility Ladies Vest  Unfortunately, it appears that the manufacturer is no longer making them. I say unfortunately because this is my absolute favorite safety vest I have ever worn because it has a million pockets (I do a lot of trekking around when I'm in the field and need to carry tools with me), it fits really well, and is rated as ANSI Class 2.

    The following are the only vests I have seen that are somewhat close in utility:
    https://www.safetygearonline.com/ansi-class-ii-deluxe-ladies-fitted-vest
    https://www.kwiksafety.com/products/kwiksafety-first-lady-class-2-safety-vest-for-women-ansi-surveyor-yellow?variant=18531565404227
    https://www.hivissupply.com/gss-safety-7803-7804-hivis-class-2-ladies-vest.html

    For cold weather high-visibility gear, these look like they would be nice:
    https://www.hivissupply.com/ml-kishigo-js144-black-series-ladies-soft-shell-jacket-class-3.html
    https://www.hivissupply.com/portwest-lw70-class-3-ladies-hivis-breathable-pu-coated-safety-jacket.html

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    Karen Jamgochian P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
    Santa Rosa CA
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  • 5.  RE: Launching PPE Based on Feedback from Female Workforce

    Posted 11-25-2019 12:33 PM
    Thanks for sharing @Danielle Schroeder! This is great! I too had the same issue with workboots (ended up buying my first pair from the men's section at my local big-box store). ​

    Today I wonder what would have happened if the roles were reversed. What if all men in construction were forced to go to the women's section to purchase their PPE? Somehow I think someone would have created a new clothing line would have been created much, much earlier than 2019!

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    Stephanie Slocum P.E., M.ASCE
    Founder
    Engineers Rising LLC
    Check out my FREE virtual event coming up for women in engineering: sheengineerssummit.com
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  • 6.  RE: Launching PPE Based on Feedback from Female Workforce

    Posted 11-25-2019 02:46 PM
    Thanks for posting, Danielle. I work in construction and I am going to share this article with our safety professional. I have two main thoughts on ladies PPE.

    1. The sizes
    Although I don't see a huge safety issue (yes, the vest is more likely to get caught when it's loose), the larger vest is baggy and uncomfortable especially if I have something in the pockets. I also don't think I look very professional because the vest is hanging off of me. I would love a vest that is my tailored for my size. I have had safety professionals tell me that the smaller vests don't meet safety regulations because there is a minimum sq, inch area of reflectivity required, but this can be resolved by making the band thicker. It's also frustrating when my project gives out t-shirts for meeting a challenge or milestone, and the smallest size is a men's medium. It makes me feel isolated because I did the same work as everyone else and I feel left out of the celebration.

    2. The colors
    The gear that I find made for women come in colors pink, purple and maybe one neutral color. I don't know about anyone else, but I don't find purple work boots professional.

     I've often thought that someone should start a PPE line for women. It would make women feel more welcome in the industry, and allow them to do their job better. Thanks, Karen, for posting the links.

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    Lauren Reiter-Mailloux P.E., M.ASCE
    Sterling Heights MI
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