There have been innumerable breakthroughs in equalities between men and women in the UK over the course of the last 100 years, covering politics and representation to rights and pay. Gender-specific stereotypes have been heavily challenged and in large part, successfully overcome. Whilst progress is undoubted and many steps have been taken, there are still some areas that require thought and improvement, particularly with regard to the working environment. A good example of this is personal protective equipment specifically designed for women in the workplace.
In 2016, a number of organisations, including the TUC, carried out an extensive survey aimed at canvassing opinion on the suitability of protective workwear for the individual. The most significant outcome of these findings was that 57% of the women who participated stated that they felt that the workwear provided to them, sometimes or significantly interfered with their work. In addition to this, only 29% of women stated that they felt that the PPE equipment they utilised was designed specifically for them, where in contrast, when referencing trousers, in particular, 41% of women reported that what was provided was not suitable at all.
In respect of the laws regarding PPE, the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 2002 and the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 acts cover the main legal requirements. The core functions of these laws are to ensure that employers provide their workforce with PPE equipment that meets the standards as well as maintains it, free of charge.
In addition to this, the Equality Law stipulates that there should be no difference in the way that an employer treats both male and female workers. In this respect, the emphasis is very much on reducing the risk in the workplace, however PPE, and clothing, in particular, does have a big part to play.
Even with these laws in place, there is a common trend for employers to provide women with the same PPE clothing that they would for men, but in smaller sizes. This, of course, presents a wide range of issues. Given that the physical proportions of men and women differ greatly, meaning that women entering ‘non-traditional’ fields of work will be hampered in carrying out their duties. This further illustrates the fact that PPE should be regarded as an important equality issue that needs addressing.
There are a number of measures employers should put in place in order to tackle the issue. For instance, avoid suppliers that do not supply a range of sizes for both men and women; consult trade bodies in order to lobby manufacturers to provide a wide and varied range as well as encourage female employees to try on several sizes of clothing to ensure the best fit at all times.
To underpin this, employers should look to offer anonymous feedback channels, which can be used to inform safety committees and occupational health care providers of the thoughts and feelings of the workforce in this regard.
The design and development of protective garments for women should offer comfort, fit and durability as well as comply with EU standards. This demonstrates the need for businesses to align with a trusted provider, offering best in class products that meet a multitude of needs.
To discover more about our women’s PPE clothing and workwear range, please visit www.greenham.com or please contact your local Service Centre.
Watch out for our NEW Ladies PPE Catalogue coming out in MAY 2018!!!